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Broken Collarbone (cont.)

How Is a Broken Collarbone Diagnosed?

The doctor will take a brief history to determine how the injury occurred. If necessary, a thorough physical exam will be conducted to evaluate for any other injuries.

  • Specifically, the shoulder will be touched and inspected to identify signs of a broken collarbone. The nerves in the arm will be tested to make sure no injury has occurred there. Also, the doctor will listen to the lungs to make sure they were not injured by the broken collar bone.
  • An X-ray of the clavicle is usually ordered to determine what type of break occurred. Sometimes, the break can be very difficult to see on X-ray, and several views of the shoulder may be needed. The doctor usually can show the patient the fracture on the X-ray.
  • In rare cases a CT scan needs to be performed to find the fracture.

Recently ultrasound has been used in children to diagnose clavicle fractures.

What Is the First Aid for Broken Collarbone?

  • If someone has been in an automobile accident or suffered a similar trauma, and a broken collarbone is suspected, be cautious and do not move the person. There may be other injuries. Wait for appropriately trained emergency medical services personnel to arrive unless the patient is still in danger if they are not moved. If the patient must be moved, avoid movements of the neck, back, and injured collarbone as much as possible to avoid further injuries.
  • If it is clear only a broken collarbone is involved, the most important treatment is pain relief.
    • The arm should be moved as little as possible. An ice pack wrapped in a towel should be applied directly to the broken collarbone. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are effective over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers for adults; avoid aspirin use in children.
    • A homemade sling can be formed from a large handkerchief, or towel, or from the triangle bandage found in most home first aid kits. Simply fold the handkerchief, or towel, in half to form a triangle. Then fold the triangle around the forearm with one pointy end toward the elbow and the other two ends can be tied around the neck. The elbow should be bent and supported by the sling across the chest.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fracture, Clavicle »

Clavicular fractures are common injuries that account for approximately 5% of all fractures seen in the ED.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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