Clavicle fracture: what consequences does it have?

The clavicle fracture is one of the most common bone injuries. It consists of the partial or total breakage of said bone which is located in the upper part of the thorax. It is essential to be able to move the arm properly.

The clavicle fracture is very common in traffic accidents and in certain sports, such as motorcycling. The problem is that, if not treated well, it can lead to a number of complications. Therefore, in this article we explain everything you need to know about the injury and how it is treated.

What is a clavicle fracture?

The clavicle is an S-shaped bone that connects the breastbone to the shoulder blade.. That is, it joins the shoulder with the trunk, making the movement of the arm possible. We have two clavicles: one left and one right.

Numerous vital structures run near this bone. For example, the subclavian and axillary vessels or the brachial plexus, which is made up of all the nerves that allow mobility and sensitivity of the upper extremities.

As the specialists of Cochrane, Clavicle fracture is one of the most common types of bone breakage. Specifically, it tends to fracture in the middle third. The highest incidence occurs in young adults and children.

Why is it produced?

Clavicle fracture can occur for many reasons. The main mechanism, according to an article by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, is the falls in which there is direct trauma to the shoulder. It is also frequent in those in which the outstretched hand falls and the impact is transmitted to this area.

Another common cause is traffic accidents. It is an injury that is usually found in motorcyclists and cyclists, although it can also appear in car drivers. In the same way, it can be associated with a sporting activity, since in sports such as soccer or rugby falls are common.

An article published in Progress in Obstetrics and Gynecology explains that clavicle fracture is also common in newborns. It can occur during childbirth, especially in those in which the child has an inappropriate position or is large.

The reason that this injury has a higher incidence in young people is that this bone is not hardens completely until after the age of 20. That is why it is more fragile in the event of any trauma.

The presence of a bulge in the shoulder after the clavicle fracture is a sign that denotes the injury.

Clavicle fracture symptoms

The clavicle fracture usually produces quite obvious symptoms. The main sign is pain, which increases when trying to mobilize the arm or shoulder. In addition, it can be accompanied by a clicking sound or inability to mobilize.

The fracture may cause the bone to shift and a lump to appear. Above all, it usually occurs when the injury is at the end of the clavicle. Tenderness, bruising, and swelling are also common.

This injury should always be examined by a doctor. Therefore, before any blow or fall that causes these signs, it is essential to consult. In babies, it is rare for the fracture to go unnoticed.

However, if a baby is observed to have an extended arm continuously or does not move it during the first days of life, it is necessary to see a doctor urgently.

How is a clavicle fracture diagnosed?

To diagnose a clavicle fracture it is essential to take a correct medical history. The patient must tell if there has been a traumatic history or fall.

A small lump or swelling may be seen along the collarbone. In some cases, the bone can move through the skin, resulting in an open wound.

The complementary test that is most used to aid diagnosis is radiography. With it, the fracture line and the arrangement of the bones can be observed. However, in some cases other more specific studies, such as computed tomography, may be necessary.

Available treatments for clavicle fracture

Treatment of clavicle fracture depends on the characteristics of the injury and the patient's conditions. An open or displaced fracture often requires a more complex approach. We explain the different options.


When the fracture is closed and the bones have barely moved from their original position, the injury can be treated conservatively. Most of them heal on their own by immobilizing the arm for a certain time.

As explained by specialists from the Mayo Clinic, the immobilization time varies depending on age and severity. Children usually heal before 6 weeks, while adults may require 3 months.

Conservative treatment it also includes medications to relieve inflammation and pain. The most recommended are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.


As we have noted, sometimes the clavicle fracture is open or the fragments are displaced. In these cases, surgical treatment is usually necessary. It is also recommended if the clavicle has been broken into more than two pieces.

The surgery consists of fixing the fragments using plates or screws. In this way, the bone heals more quickly and the possibility of it being in the wrong position is reduced.

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Complications of clavicle fracture

A clavicle fracture can cause complications, both in the short and long term. One of the main ones is the injury of neighboring structures by some of the bone fragments. For example, the nerves of the brachial plexus can be damaged, causing paralysis. This is common in babies.

Another complication is osteoarthritis. It is a pathology that consists of the wear of the cartilage that forms the joint. A bony lump may also appear in the bone as a result of the fracture healing process.

Surgery is also associated with risks of infection and poor healing. Especially in cases where the fracture is severe, either because there are many fragments or because they are widely displaced.

Forced labor or labor with very large babies can lead to a newborn clavicle fracture.

Recovery from this injury

To avoid complications from a clavicle fracture, it is essential to follow your doctors' instructions on recovery. The indicated immobilization time and the way to do it must be met.

Further, it is recommended to apply cold compresses in the area the first days. This helps to reduce inflammation and, with it, pain. Similarly, another of the pillars is physiotherapy. The idea is to gradually mobilize the joint to regain strength and flexibility.

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Remember that clavicle fracture is very common

The clavicle is one of the bones that is most often fractured. The injury can occur from a fall, a blow to the shoulder, or even during birth.

Immobilization for treatment can be complex to comply with, but it is essential to avoid complications. On many occasions, the bone does not heal properly and osteoarthritis or bone malformations appear. That is why medical indications should always be followed.