The clavicle is one of the most commonly broken bones in the body. It typically results from a fall onto the side of the shoulder such as off a bicycle. For many years clavicle fractures were almost universally treated with a sling and the majority of these did well. However approximately 15 years ago surgeons became concerned about some of the fractures not healing or healing out of position and then causing shoulder problems.

It is increasingly accepted that fractures where the ends are not touching do better with surgery. Surgery involves putting the bones back to their correct position and holding them there with a plate and screws while they heal.

In comparison to being non operatively managed in a sling, surgery provides:

  • A <1% chance of not healing with surgery versus a 15% chance with with treatment in a sling.1
  • Next to no chance of the bone healing in a bad position (malunion) with surgery resulting in
    Improved shoulder function
  • A better appearance but at the expense of a small scar
  • Quicker recovery; having the bones stable and in their correct position helps the pain to settle rapidly.
  • Faster return to work


[1] Nonoperative Treatment Compared with Plate Fixation of Displaced Midshaft Clavicular Fractures: A Multicenter, Randomized Clinical Trial; Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American). 2007;89:1-10.