Treating a Broken Bone in the Shoulder
What is a shoulder fracture?
A shoulder fracture is a broken bone in the shoulder. Two common sites for fracture are the proximal humerus (upper arm) and the clavicle (collarbone). The scapula (shoulder blade) is less commonly injured.
How does it occur?
Shoulder fractures typically occur from a traumatic event like a fall or a motor vehicle accident. Active people and elderly people are more prone to this type of injury.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are pain, swelling and bruising, inability to move the shoulder, a grinding sensation when the shoulder is moved, and deformity. With a clavicle fracture, you may have a bump where your collarbone is. With a proximal humerus fracture, you may have severely limited range-of-motion, swelling and pain in the upper arm.
How is it diagnosed?
A good history of the injury along with x-rays of the shoulder are used to diagnose the injury. A physical exam is also helpful in evaluating the functional deficit secondary to the injury. CT or MRI can help with evaluating the extent of the damage to bone and soft tissue structure and can help with operative planning.
How is it treated?
In some cases, with some patients, wearing a sling or immobilizer may be the best approach as the fracture heals on its own. In more severe injuries, or with more active patients, surgery with plates, rods, and screws are a better option. This can be done as a same day surgery in our outpatient surgery center or at the hospital. Light activity may be resumed within 24-48 hours after surgery with simple face to waist activities at first, gradually increasing activity as you heal.
What is the recovery time?
Recovery is typically about 4-6 weeks for most patients. You will be given home exercises to help with stiffness, range-of-motion, and strength. Activity will be advanced as your shoulder heals. Some patients may require physical therapy.
We are here to help. If you believe you are suffering from one of these conditions, we would love to deliver a diagnosis, get you treated and get you moving again.