Complications of operative treatment of clavicle fractures in a Level I Trauma Center.

Research paper by Federico F Persico, Eric E Lorenz, David D Seligson

Indexed on: 19 Jul '13Published on: 19 Jul '13Published in: European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology


Traditionally, the belief is that the clavicle heals readily and with nonoperative treatment. Since evidence suggests that many clavicles benefit from operative care, the aim of this study was to find the incidence of complications after operative treatment of clavicle fractures. This retrospective study includes 56 patients (41 male and 15 female) who were treated operatively for clavicle fractures between 2010 and 2012. The indications were displacement more than 20 mm, comminution, tenting of the skin, floating shoulder, and open fractures. Seventy-five percent of the fractures occurred in the midshaft and 25 % in the lateral third of the clavicle. There were no fractures of the medial third. The midshaft fractures were either plated with 3.5 mm reconstruction plates or anatomical locking plates. For internal fixation of the lateral fractures, we used acromioclavicular hook plates. The mean follow-up period was 4.6 months (range 1.0-28.0). Three patients did not participate in the follow-up. There were 12 patients with complications (21 %). Five of them required reoperations. Two patients were reoperated due to clavicle nonunions, two patients due to traumatic refracture of the plated clavicle, and one because of pain caused by the plate. Four cases developed superficial infections, and there was one patient with a deep tissue infection. None of the patients showed signs of neurovascular impairment postoperatively. None of the patients complained about decreased range of motion or loss of muscle strength postoperatively. Plating of clavicle fractures is a procedure that results in lower rates of malunion, nonunion, and functional impairment compared with nonoperative treatment. Nonetheless, one case in ten has a complicated course. Attention to technique and careful follow-up may prevent these problems.