clavicle, fractured

Fracture of the clavicle, or collarbone, is particularly common in childhood. This pair of bones attaches to the sternum at the midline of the body and serves to stabilize the width between the shoulders to enable us to hang by our arms, among other fascinating functions. Treatment is easy and healing is rapid and complete. A common method of treatment is stabilization of the clavicle with a so-called figure-of-eight splint, which holds the shoulders smartly back and keeps pressure off the broken ends of the clavicle. The healing knot or callus at the site of the fracture will reach full strength in maybe 8 to 12 weeks, and will disappear even on xray within a year or so. Research1 says that the figure-of-eight splint is not necessary, and that a simple sling is more comfortable and just as effective.

The most commonly encountered fracture in the newborn is fracture of the clavicle. It is the result of passage of the second widest part of the body, the shoulder girdle, through a narrow birth canal. The newborn clavicle has an S-curve shape, which makes it prone to breakage during delivery. This is an obvious safety mechanism to prevent a large baby becoming hung in the birth canal, putting baby and mother in dire peril. The clavicle gives way and breaks; the fracture is healed in a few weeks and leaves no trace. We generally do not splint newborns. Simply swaddling them for a few days and handling them gently is sufficient treatment. They do not appear to be sore for very many days at all.

1. Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica 1987;58:71

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