The debate continues as to whether midshaft clavicular fractures are optimally treated surgically or nonoperatively. More data about this clinical dilemma is delivered in the January 18, 2017 issue of JBJS, where Woltz et al. report findings from a multicenter controlled trial that randomized 160 clavicular-fracture patients to receive ORIF with a plate or nonoperative treatment with a sling and physical therapy.
The rate of radiographic nonunion was significantly higher in the nonoperatively treated group after 1 year, but no difference was found between the groups with respect to Constant and DASH scores at any time point—6 weeks, three months, and 1 year. Pain scores and general physical health were marginally better after operative treatment, but only at 6 weeks. However, the rate of second operations for adverse events in the ORIF group was considerable, and after 1 year, implant removal was performed in or scheduled for 16.7% of the operatively treated patients.
Based on these findings and other recent data, the authors “do not advocate routine operative treatment for displaced midshaft clavicular fractures,” although they say early plate fixation may offer advantages for patients who have high demands, high pain scores, or a strong preference for surgery. Based on the fact that “neither treatment option is clearly superior for all patients,” the authors conclude that “the clavicular fracture is preeminently suitable for shared treatment decision-making.”