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Shoulder Fractures

The shoulder joint consists of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula) and collar bone (clavicle).  A fracture at the shoulder can be seen in any of these bones, each of which can has a different treatment protocol and prognosis.  Fractures at the shoulder can occur with a fall on an outstretched hand, direct blow or a twisting injury.  Other soft tissue injuries can occur in conjunction with a fracture including sprains, strains or dislocations.

 

If you have suffered a fracture in your shoulder, it is likely that you have moderate to significant pain in the shoulder, point tenderness, swelling, bruising and may have noticed a deformity.  An x-ray is warranted to evaluate the fracture and help determine the proper course of treatment.  Depending on the patient’s age, severity and location of the fracture, either surgical or non-operative treatment can be rendered.  If surgical intervention is required, it is likely that a plate and screws will be used to stabilize the fracture site.  Regardless of treatment, a period of immobilization is likely followed by a course of rehabilitation to restore motion and regain strength.

 

Clavicle Fractures

Clavicle fractures are the most common type of fracture in the shoulder.  They can result from a fall on an outstretched hand, a fall directly onto the shoulder or a direct blow to the clavicle itself.  Typically these fractures are associated with significant pain with shoulder motion and an obvious deformity can be seen or felt due to the lack of soft tissue or muscle surrounding the clavicle.  These fractures can be treated non-operatively or surgically depending on the amount of displacement as well as patient age, activity level and hand dominance.  Young adults and children may not require surgery and usually heal relatively quickly.  If non-operative treatment is rendered, a bump may be felt on the clavicle once it has healed.  If surgery is warranted, a plate and screws will be used to stabilize the fracture site.  The biggest complaint after this type of surgery is being able to see and feel the plate on top of the clavicle.

 

Scapula Fractures

 

Proximal Humerus Fractures

Fractures of the proximal humerus (ball portion of the shoulder joint) typically result from a fall directly onto the shoulder or occur with a shoulder dislocation.  This type of fracture is more common in the older population.  The severity of the fracture depends on the location of the fracture and the amount of displacement.  There is a specific area of concern in the proximal humerus that has a poor blood supply.  Fractures at this location may require surgery because of the lack of blood supply to heal the fracture without surgical intervention.  Otherwise, surgery is not typically warranted unless there is significant displacement of the fracture.  If significant displacement is present, surgery may be performed to stabilize the fracture with a combination of pins, plates, screws, wires and sutures.  In severe cases, a shoulder replacement may be considered.