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Orthopedics. 2013 Aug;36(8):e1099-102. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20130724-32.

Clavicle fracture with intrathoracic displacement.


Clavicle fractures are common, and most are isolated injuries. Injury to the nearby subclavian vessels and brachial plexus have classically been described as potential complications of clavicle fractures. However, in the setting of a substantially displaced clavicle fracture, concomitant thoracic trauma is relatively frequent. Injury to the thorax can be difficult to identify on physical examination, and advanced imaging modalities may be required for diagnosis. The evaluation, workup, and management of a patient with intrathoracic displacement of a clavicle fracture are described. Despite the significant fracture displacement and associated pneumothorax, the injury severity was not clinically obvious. Imaging, including a screening chest radiograph and subsequent axial computed tomography, played an important role in diagnosis and management. The patient underwent successful open reduction and plate fixation. A thoracostomy tube was not required at any point during the hospitalization. The patient recovered uneventfully and returned to full work duty by 3 months postoperatively. Including the current report, only 3 cases of intrathoracic displacement of the clavicle have been published in the English literature. All involved fractures of the middle third of the clavicle. The severity of displacement was not obvious in any patient, and diagnosis was dependent on additional imaging. Given the frequency of associated chest trauma and limitations of physical examination, chest radiography should be considered in the evaluation of patients with substantially displaced clavicle fractures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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