This is a prospective randomised controlled trial comparing the functional outcomes of plate fixation and elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN) of completely displaced midshaft fractures of the clavicle in the active adult population.Patients and Methods
We prospectively recruited 123 patients and randomised them to either plate fixation or ESIN. Patients completed the Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score at one to six weeks post-operatively. They were followed up at six weeks, three and six months and one year with radiographs, and their clinical outcome was assessed using both the DASH and the Constant Score.Results
Plate fixation provided a faster functional recovery during the first six months compared with ESIN, but there was no difference after one year. The duration of surgery was shorter for ESIN (mean 53.4 minutes, 22 to 120) than for plate fixation (mean 69.7 minutes, 35 to 106, p < 0.001). The recovery after ESIN was slower with increasing fracture comminution and with open reduction (p < 0.05).Conclusion
Both methods return the patients to their pre-injury functional levels, but plate fixation has a faster recovery period in comminuted fractures than ESIN. ESIN has a shorter operative time and lower infection and implant rates of failure when using 2.5 mm nails or wider, suggesting that this is the preferred method in mid-shaft fractures with no comminution, whereas plate fixation is the superior method in comminuted fractures.