How is a Clavicle Fracture Diagnosed?


Your doctor will ask what you were doing when you broke your collarbone. They may then perform a physical examination to assess your symptoms. That may include evaluating the injured area, taking your pulse, and checking skin color and temperature to see if blood flow is healthy. An evaluation may also be used to gauge range of motion and strength in your shoulder and other joints. An X-ray is the best way to see a broken collarbone and confirm the diagnosis.

If your doctor thinks there could be damage to your blood vessels, one or more of the following tests may be ordered:

  • Arteriogram using X-rays and dyes to look inside your arteries
  • CT scans to get more detailed X-ray pictures
  • Ultrasound using sound waves to see what is happening inside your body

How is a Clavicle Fracture Treated?


Most broken collarbones are treated without surgery, but people with more serious clavicle fractures may need an operation.

Nonsurgical treatments

  • You may be given a special sling to wear that supports your arm and shoulder while your collarbone heals
  • Medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help relieve your pain
  • Your doctor will prescribe physical therapy, so you can learn and practice exercises to restore range of motion, flexibility, and strength
  • You may begin light exercises soon after the injury to minimize joint stiffness

Surgery for a broken collarbone

You may need surgery for a broken clavicle if:

  • The bone pieces of a displaced fracture do not properly line up
  • A bone has broken through the skin (open fracture)
  • There is damage to nerves or blood vessels in the area

Most clavicle fractures requiring surgery are treated with open reduction and internal fixation

  • During an open reduction, the surgeon makes an incision to access the fracture and reposition the bone pieces so they are back in the normal position
  • During an internal fixation, the bone pieces are secured in correct alignment using plates, pins, and screws

Medication can control your discomfort after the procedure, and your doctor will prescribe physical therapy to help you regain your arm and shoulder function.



With proper healing and exercises to regain function, you should be able to do all of the things you used to do before the clavicle fracture. Some people feel a bump where the fracture has healed, which may get smaller over time but never disappear entirely.

  • Follow your doctor's instructions and take the time needed to allow your collarbone to heal properly
  • Avoid lifting or activities that may disrupt the healing process if performed too soon. If the bone moves out of position before it has healed, it can result in a nonunion (misalignment), which in some cases requires surgery to realign the bone pieces.
  • Diabetes and smoking can slow the healing process. Avoid smoking, and if you have diabetes, follow your physician's guidance to keep your blood sugar under control.

If you do not need surgery, you may need to wear the sling for three to four weeks. If you are having surgery, you will need to use the sling for up to six weeks. It can take up to three months to get back to your normal activities, and six months to a year to fully recover from a clavicle fracture.

Not all clavicle fractures require surgery. Most of them can be treated by immobilizing the arm in a sling.

You may need surgery for a clavicle fracture if:

  • The bone pieces of a displaced fracture do not properly line up
  • A bone has broken through the skin (open fracture)
  • There is damage to nerves or blood vessels in the area
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Clavicle Fracture Treatment

If you have symptoms of a broken clavicle, it is important to seek medical attention promptly and have it treated by an orthopedic specialist to ensure that it heals properly. The orthopedic experts at NewYork-Presbyterian have vast experience treating clavicle fractures and all types of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Make an appointment for a consultation.