Shoulder fracture

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What is a shoulder fracture?

A shoulder fracture is the breaking of bones around the shoulder area. It commonly involves the clavicle (collar bone), proximal humerus (top of the upper arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade).

What are the causes of shoulder fractures?

Accidents such as falling onto the shoulder or high impact from a high-speed car accident can result in a fracture of one of the shoulder bones. 
 

Symptoms of shoulder fracture 

Shoulder fractures usually present with severe pain that you can't ignore. Other symptoms include:​

  • Swelling and bruising

  • Inability to move the shoulder

  • A grinding sensation when moving the shoulder

  • Deformity of shoulder

Clavicle fractures usually present with swelling around the middle of the collarbone area. Scapular fractures present with severe bruising about the shoulder blade. Proximal humerus fractures typically present with a severely swollen shoulder.

 

When should I seek medical help?

Seek medical help immediately if you suspect a shoulder fracture or if you have experienced trauma to your shoulder. 

 

Diagnosis

To diagnose any fracture in your shoulder, your doctor will take your case history and past medical history into account. They will check for any pain or deformity. X-rays are the most helpful tool to diagnose a fracture. Computer tomography may also be required to visualise the fracture more clearly, which is helpful for surgery planning.  

 

Treatment

Fracture in different bones have different treatments depending on the severity of fracture:

Clavicle Fractures
Surgery is not necessary for most clavicle fractures. It is only required when a fracture breaks through the skin or the bone is severely out of place. Surgery typically involves fixing the fracture with plates and screws inside the bone.

Proximal Humerus Fractures
Surgery is not necessary if the bone fragments are not out of position (displaced). However, if the fragments are displaced, surgery is usually required. In severe cases, it usually involves the fixation of the fracture fragments with plates, screws, pins, or shoulder replacement.

Scapula Fractures
Surgery is often unnecessary for scapular fractures unless it is a severe case. Conservative treatment, including immobilization with a sling, icing, and pain medications, is usually adequate for fracture recovery.