Is shortening of displaced midshaft clavicle fractures associated with inferior clinical outcomes following nonoperative management? A systematic review

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2019 Aug;28(8):1626-1638. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2018.12.017. Epub 2019 Mar 28.


Background: Management of displaced midshaft clavicle fractures is controversial. Nonoperative treatment can lead to shortening, a risk factor for nonunion and poor functional outcomes. These inferior results have resulted in authors recommending surgical fixation for fractures with significant shortening. The aim of this systematic review was to analyze the effect of fracture shortening on shoulder function and nonunion rates in nonoperatively managed displaced midshaft clavicle fractures.

Methods: A review of the online databases MEDLINE and Embase was conducted on February 16, 2018, in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The review was registered prospectively in the PROSPERO database. Clinical studies with midshaft clavicle fractures treated nonoperatively reporting an evaluation of the degree of clavicle shortening and either shoulder function or nonunion were included. The studies were appraised using the Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies (MINORS) tool.

Results: The search strategy identified 16 studies eligible for inclusion, comprising 4 randomized controlled trials and 12 nonrandomized retrospective comparative studies. Of the 12 case series, 11 failed to demonstrate any correlation between shortening and shoulder outcome scores. Of the 4 randomized controlled trials, 3 reported no significant association between fracture shortening and shoulder outcome scores. The studies also failed to demonstrate a significant association between nonunion and the presence of clavicle shortening.

Conclusion: There is no significant association between fracture shortening and nonunion rates or shoulder outcome scores in displaced midshaft clavicle fractures managed nonoperatively.

Keywords: Midshaft; clavicle; displaced; fracture; outcome; shortening; shoulder function, nonunion.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clavicle / diagnostic imaging
  • Clavicle / injuries*
  • Fracture Fixation / methods*
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies