Complications After Plate Fixation of Displaced Pediatric Midshaft Clavicle Fractures

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Abstract

Background:

Operative treatment of displaced pediatric midshaft clavicle fractures has become increasingly popular, despite lack of evidence that surgical management leads to superior outcomes. Complications, such as plate irritation necessitating removal and wound infection, have been reported in adults. The purpose of this study was to evaluate complications after plate fixation of midshaft clavicle fractures in the pediatric population.

Methods:

We retrospectively identified patients 10 to 18 years old who had undergone plate fixation of a displaced midshaft clavicle fracture between 2009 and 2014. Patients who had surgery for a malunion or nonunion, and patients with <6 months of follow-up were excluded. Demographic data, radiographic union, time to return to activity, and complications were recorded. Any complication that led to unplanned surgery was considered a major complication.

Results:

We analyzed 36 patients (25 males, 11 females) with 37 fractures. The average age at surgery was 14.5±1.7 years and mean follow-up was 1.3±1.0 years. All of the fractures healed and average time to return to activity was 58±28 days. The overall postoperative complication rate was 86% (32/37): 59% (22/37) implant prominence or irritation, 16% (6/37) anterior chest wall numbness, 5% (2/37) superficial wound dehiscence or infection, 3% (1/37) refracture adjacent to the plate, and 3% (1/37) refracture after implant removal. The major complication rate was 43% (16/37). Fifteen patients underwent a second surgery for implant removal secondary to prominence or pain. One patient underwent revision open reduction and internal fixation after he sustained a refracture at the distal aspect of the plate that resulted in a painful nonunion. Only 1 patient had a refracture after implant removal and this was treated nonoperatively.

Conclusions:

Implant prominence or irritation is common after plate fixation of displaced pediatric midshaft clavicle fractures. A second surgery for implant removal may be necessary. Patients should be appropriately counseled regarding complications before plate fixation of midshaft clavicle fractures.

Level of Evidence:

Level IV—therapeutic.

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