Background: Few randomized controlled trials have compared operative with nonoperative treatment of clavicular fractures.
Methods: Patients with displaced midshaft clavicular fractures were randomized either to nonoperative treatment with a sling or to operative treatment with a stainless steel 3.5-mm reconstruction plate. Outcome measures were the Constant shoulder score, DASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand) score, pain, fracture-healing, and complications. The null hypothesis was that the Constant and DASH scores would not differ between the groups at the one-year follow-up evaluation.
Results: In accordance with the power analysis, we included sixty patients in the study; thirty-two were randomized to the nonoperative group and twenty-eight to the operative group. We found no difference in the Constant score (p = 0.75), the DASH score (p = 0.89), or pain (p = 0.98) between the groups at the one-year follow-up evaluation. All fractures in the operative group healed, but six nonunions (24%) occurred in the nonoperative group.
Conclusions: One year after a displaced midshaft clavicular fracture, nonoperative treatment resulted in a higher nonunion rate but similar function and disability compared with operative treatment.