Clavicle fractures can heal without long-term problems

Published 8:59 am Friday, January 8, 2010

EM asks: My 11-year-old son broke his collar bone during a football game last week. He was seen by his family doctor and then by an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon looked at the X-ray and showed them to me as well. He stated that my son does not need surgery and that he should heal fine in two months’ time. When I looked at the X-ray, I was concerned about the angulation. I know that I am not a doctor, but is this something to worry about? The surgeon also reassured me that the angulation will be better as he grows and heals. Should I worry that much?

Dr. Patel writes: Dear EM, you, like most parents, are going to be concerned about the deformity. I see this very often, and I can tell you that the majority of clavicle fractures heal without any long-term problems.

Children can actually remodel their bone as they grow and can even correct some deformity. Even if he had a slight deformity, from a functional standpoint, he should not have any problems.

The fractures that need surgical attention are ones with tenting skin or skin breakdown. If there is significant pain or deformity, surgery can be contemplated as well.

Sometimes muscle or soft tissue can get trapped between the fracture site and can prevent a union of the bones. In that case, surgery may be indicated. Surgery usually involves plate and screws and can have good results.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Manish Patel has extensive training in treating shoulder, elbow and knee injuries, and performing arthroscopic surgery. He is the principal medical practitioner in the offices of Southampton Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, on the campus of Southampton Memorial Hospital. Submit questions about sports medicine, injuries and treatment for this column to, or call Patel at 562-7301.