Conservative treatment of fractures of the clavicle

Department of Clinical Methodology and Medical-Surgical Technologies - Orthopaedics Section, University General Hospital, Piazza G,Cesare 11, 70124 Bari, Italy. .
BMC Research Notes 09/2011; 4(1):333. DOI: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-333
Source: PubMed


In the treatment of clavicle fractures, the choice of procedure depends on the possibility of restoring the anatomical functional integrity of the shoulder.
We examined 71 patients (51 males and 20 females, mean age 38.9 years) who were affected by clavicle fracture sequelae. Demographic and clinical data and the site of the lesion were recorded for each partecipant. The dissatisfaction of the patient was determined by the presence of 1 or more affirmative answers on the Simple Shoulder Test. The Constant Shoulder Score was also included in the functional and clinical exams. We measured the length of the healthy clavicle and the previously fractured clavicle, and we expressed the difference in length in mm and in percentage shortening. We then examined the correlations between the shortening of the bone and the clinical and functional outcomes of the patients.
Sixty patients had a lesion of the diaphysis, 8 patients had a lesion of the lateral third of the clavicle, and 3 patients had a lesion of the medial third of the clavicle. The mean Constant Shoulder Score was 77.9, and 51 of the 71 patients were satisfied with their treatment. Radiography showed a mean clavicle shortening of 10 mm (mean percentage 6.5%). In the 20 dissatisfied patients, the mean clavicle shortening was 15.2 mm (9.7%). In these patients, we found a highly significant association between dissatisfaction with treatment and the amount of bone shortening, (p < 0.0001), as well as with a diaphyseal location (p < 0.05) and with the female sex (p = 0.004). No other variable related to the patient, the type of treatment or the fracture characteristics correlated with the treatment outcome.
In the literature, measurements of the shortening of the bone segment following a fracture range between 15 and 23 mm, and marked shortening is correlated with the failure of conservative treatment. However, these data need to be reinterpreted in light of the physiological variability of the clavicle length, which ranges from 140 to 158 mm in the healthy population. Shortening of the bone by more than 9.7% should be the cut-off for predicting failure of conservative treatment.

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