Midshaft Fractures of the Clavicle: A Meta-analysis Comparing Surgical Fixation Using Anteroinferior Plating Versus Superior Plating

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To compare the outcomes of clavicle fracture fixation using anteroinferior versus superior plate placement.


We performed a meta-analysis of studies that have reported on outcomes after superior or anteroinferior plate fixation for acute midshaft clavicle fractures (Orthopaedic Trauma Association 15-B). A computerized literature search in the Pubmed, Scopus, and Cochrane Library databases was used to identify relevant articles. Only full text articles without language restrictions were evaluated. The inclusion criteria consisted of: (1) fracture of the midshaft clavicle; (2) surgery for acute fractures (within 1 month of the fracture); (3) adult patients (16 years of age and older); and (4) open reduction and internal fixation with plate application in either the anteroinferior or superior position. Studies were excluded if they did not specify plate location, evaluated multitrauma patients, investigated minimally invasive procedures, or studied operations for revision, nonunion, malunion, or infection. The primary measured outcomes were symptomatic hardware (implant prominence or irritation) and surgery for implant removal. The secondary outcomes were time to union, fracture union, nonunion, malunion, Disabilies of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score, Constant score, and implant failure. Frequencies and proportions of cases were recorded for binary outcomes, whereas mean and standard deviations were recorded for continuous outcomes. Other summary statistics provided were used to impute mean and standard deviations under the assumption of normality when these were not reported. Continuous outcomes were compared between groups using linear mixed effects models, whereas binary outcomes were compared using mixed effects logistic regression models, including fixed group effects and random study effects. P-values less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant. All analyses were performed using SAS v. 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC).


A total of 1428 articles were identified among the 3 databases, of which 897 remained after removing duplicates. From that pool, 57 relevant studies were evaluated. Articles were excluded because of an inability to specify plate location (6), a subject pool not exclusively consisting of acute fractures (4) or midshaft fractures (2), a minimally invasive surgical approach (6), use of nonstandard plates (1), poor reporting of functional outcomes (2), and a duplicate group of patients (2). This left 34 articles to be used in the meta-analysis. Of these, 8 studies reported on patients with anteroinferior plating (N = 390) and 27 studies reported on patients with superior plating (N = 1104). No significant differences were found with respect to the functional shoulder scores (Disabilies of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand and Constant) between the 2 groups. There was no significant difference between each group for the probability of having a union (P = 0.41), malunion (P = 0.28), nonunion (0.29), or implant failure (P = 0.39). Patients in the superior plating group had a significantly higher probability of suffering from symptomatic hardware (0.17) as compared to patients in the anteroinferior plating group (0.08), (P = 0.005). In addition, the superior plating group had a significantly higher rate of surgery for implant removal (0.11 vs. 0.05), (P = 0.008).


The findings of this investigation demonstrate that plating along the superior and anteroinferior aspects of the clavicle lead to similar operative outcomes with respect to union, nonunion, malunion, and implant failure, as well as similar functional outcomes scores. Plates applied to the superior aspect of the clavicle are associated with higher rates of symptomatic hardware and more frequent implant removal.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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