Shoulder Fracture

Shoulder Fracture Overview

A shoulder fracture results in a crack or break in one of the shoulder bones, commonly caused by sudden force, impact or trauma to the joint during sports activities or a hard fall. A fractured shoulder is classified based on which bone is broken, the clavicle, scapula or humerus. Dr. Mark Getelman, orthopedic shoulder specialist, diagnoses and treats broken shoulders in Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles, California patients.

The shoulder is a complex, mobile joint and includes three major bones. A shoulder fracture can involve one or more of these bones, including,

  • Clavicle (collarbone) fractures: The most common broken shoulder location commonly caused by a fall.
  • Scapula (shoulder blade) fractures: The least common location typically fractured during high-energy impacts such as an automobile accident.
  • Humerus (upper arm bone) fractures: These fractures generally occur in the older population from poor bone density.

A fractured shoulder is classified as non-displaced or displaced. Patients with a non-displaced fracture experience broken pieces of bone that line up on each side of the fracture. Patients with a displaced fracture experience broken pieces of bone that do not line up  and are separated on each side of the break.

Shoulder Fracture Symptoms

Symptoms of a fractured shoulder include immediate pain after the injury, swelling, bruising, loss of motion and in more sever injuries, deformity at the site of the break.

Shoulder Fracture Diagnosis

During a consultation, Dr. Getelman will examine the injured area for pain level, swelling, bruising and visible deformity. X-rays are the most used diagnostic test to confirm the diagnosis since they display the bones in great detail. An MRI or CT scan may be necessary in more severe broken shoulder cases to better determine the fracture pattern to assess the best course of treatment.

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Shoulder Fracture Treatment

Non-Surgical

Many fractured shoulder cases can be treated with conservative measures, such as rest, ice, stabilization in a sling and physical therapy exercises. Physical therapy begins after the bone has healed to regain strength and range of motion in the injured shoulder.

Surgical

Surgery for a shoulder fracture may be offered after careful consideration of the injury severity, patient’s activity level and patient’s age. There are a number of surgical options available to patients utilizing pins, plates and screws and other hardware to hold the bone in place as it heals. In certain cases, Dr. Getelman may recommend an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) procedure which involves opening the fractured area, realigning the fractured bones and using a plate and screws to hold the bone together. Some fractures in older individuals are so severely displaced that they cannot be repaired in which case shoulder replacement or arthroplasty may be required as the best surgical option.

For additional resources on a shoulder fracture, or to learn more about broken shoulder treatment options, please contact the Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles, California orthopedic office of shoulder specialist Dr. Mark Getelman.