Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder Fracture Overview

A shoulder fracture is simply another way to describe a broken shoulder. Shoulder fractures can occur due to a fall, sports injury, motor vehicle accident, or other type of trauma. The muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves surrounding the shoulder joint can also be injured at the time of the shoulder fracture.

The shoulder is a complex joint that has the largest range of motion of all of the joints in the body. It is made up of three bones: the humerus (the upper arm bone), the scapula (the shoulder blade) and the clavicle (the collarbone). The upper end of the humerus is shaped like a ball and connects with the glenoid, or socket of the scapula. Any of these can fracture with enough impact.

Symptoms of a Shoulder Fracture

Symptoms of a shoulder fracture include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to move the arm normally without pain
  • A bump or deformity at the fracture site
  • Grinding sensation when moving the shoulder

Types of Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder fractures are diagnosed with X-rays and a physical evaluation by a doctor.  Sometimes, a CT scan is also needed. Fractures are classified as either displaced or non-displaced:

Non-displaced fracture: Most shoulder fractures are non-displaced. In a non-displaced fracture, the bones that make up the shoulder break but the pieces do not separate or move very far out of their normal position. Mild, non-displaced shoulder fractures may not need surgery and can be immobilized in a sling until the bone fragments heal.

Displaced fracture: With a displaced fracture, the bones snap or separate into pieces and move out of their proper alignment. Displaced fractures often require surgery to properly set the bone in place.

Surgery & Recovery Details

During surgery, bones are re-aligned and set into place with metal plates and screws. In cases of very severe fractures or very poor bone quality, a reverse shoulder prosthesis is used to reconstruct the shoulder.

Your recovery will depend on the type and severity of the original injury. After surgery, you will need to wear a sling. Pain medications will be prescribed to help with pain management. During follow-up appointments, Dr. Romeo performs a physical examination and evaluates X-rays to monitor the healing progress.

Most patients need help eating, bathing, and dressing for several days after surgery. Most patients benefit from a supervised physical therapy program to improve range-of-motion and muscle strength. Those with sedentary desk jobs can return to work sooner than those with more physically demanding occupations. It can take four to six weeks or longer to reclaim normal function.

For more information about causes and treatment of shoulder fractures, please request an appointment with experienced Chicago orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Romeo. Call our office today to schedule your visit.

Want to know more? Here’s some of Dr. Romeo’s recent medical journal articles about shoulder fractures:

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