How best to treat clavicle fractures remains a controversial question in orthopaedics. A study by Huttunen et al. in the November 2, 2016 JBJS does not resolve that controversy, but it sheds a little light on it.
The authors analyzed a validated Swedish hospital-discharge registry and determined that 44,609 clavicle fractures occurred in that country between 2001 and 2012. During that period, the incidence of clavicle fractures increased by 67%, from 35.6 to 59.3 per 100,000 person-years. During that same time, the rate of surgically treated clavicle fractures increased by 705%, from 2.5% of all clavicle fractures in 2001 to 12.1% in 2012. Surgical treatment was more common in men and in younger age groups. Nevertheless, nearly 90% of clavicle fractures were treated nonsurgically in 2012.
Huttunen et al. remain ambivalent in the discussion section of their study, saying that these and other recent findings “may support surgical treatment of young, active patients who need to return to their previous level of activity in the shortest possible time,” while noting that “high-quality evidence that surgery produces superior long-term results compared with nonoperative treatment remains lacking.”