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CONSERVATIVE MANAGEMENT OF MIDDLE-THIRD CLAVICULAR FRACTURES – THE RELEVANCE OF SHORTENING AND CLINICAL OUTCOME

Authors: S. Lazarides, A. Foukas, and G. Zafiropoulos

References: J Bone Joint Surg Br Orthopaedic Proceedings, 2005 87-B: 333-334

Abstract
Introduction and Aims: The clavicle has several important functions each of which may be affected after fracture and malunion of the bone. The aim is to establish any association between shortening of the clavicle, following successful conservative management and clinical outcome.

Method: 132 patients with history of an acute fracture of the clavicle were reviewed. None of them had previous pathology affecting shoulder function, prior to injury. Men accounted 93 with average age 25.4 years, and women 39 with average age 34.2 years. All underwent conservative management with standard protocols and the fracture was united. The length and relative shortening of the united clavicle were assessed on a standardised posteroanterior chest x-ray. Intra- and Inter-observer reliability of measurements were assessed. Clinical outcome was evaluated with the Constant score. Mean follow-up was 30 months.

Results: Clavicular shortening following fracture union was 11.4 mm on average (range 3–25 mm), and was encountered in 120 patients. Intra- and inter-observer variability of measurements were not significant. Fracture healing time averaged 10 weeks (range 6–20 weeks) and 5.3% of patients presented delayed union. Thirty-four patients (25.8%) were unsatisfied with the result. The mean Constant score was 84 (range 62–100). Forty patients were having pain, and 21 had shoulder function impairment. Shortening >14mm was statistically associated with unsatisfactory results.

Conclusion: Clavicle is an important element in the integral functional mobility of the shoulder and malunion after fracture could lead to unsatisfactory results. We describe a simple, reliable method of Clavicular length-shortening evaluation and we report the results following successful conservative management. Identification of those patients likely to have poor results after conservative treatment, would give the opportunity for alternative treatment modalities. Further prospective randomised trials are necessary.

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