Operative versus Nonoperative Management of Displaced Midshaft Clavicle Fractures: A Prospective Cohort Study

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Abstract

Objectives:

To compare results of primary internal fixation of acute displaced midshaft clavicle fractures with those managed nonoperatively in terms of fracture union and functional outcome.

Design:

Prospective cohort study.

Setting:

Level II military trauma center.

Patients/Participants:

Seventy-three patients (civilian and military) between 20 and 50 years of age with displaced midshaft clavicle fractures were allocated either to the operative (n = 45) or nonoperative (n = 28) group.

Intervention:

Patients in the nonoperative group were managed by simple sling immobilization, whereas in the operative group, fractures were reduced and fixed with a contoured reconstruction plate.

Main Outcome Measurements:

The patients were actively followed up during an 18-month period. Primary outcome measures were the rates of nonunion and symptomatic malunion; secondary outcomes included the assessment of the Constant score and the overall local complication rate.

Results:

The 18-month follow-up rate was 90%. All fractures in the operative group united compared with eight nonunions (29%) in the nonoperative group (P = 0.002). Ten symptomatic malunions (36%) occurred in the nonoperative group, whereas only two (4%) were reported for the operative group (P = 0.0008). Constant shoulder scores were significantly better for the operative group at all follow-ups (P < 0.0001). All six operative complications were implant-related.

Conclusions:

In this prospective cohort study, primary open reduction and internal plate fixation of acute displaced midshaft clavicular fractures resulted in improved outcomes and a decreased rate of nonunion and symptomatic malunion compared with nonoperative treatment.

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