Clinical outcomes following conservative and surgical management of floating shoulder injuries: a systematic review

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2020 Mar;29(3):634-642. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2019.09.029. Epub 2019 Dec 4.


Background: Floating shoulder is an uncommon injury characterized by fractures of the clavicle and ipsilateral scapular neck. No consensus exists on management. The purpose of this study was to analyze the existing literature on treatment and clinical outcomes of floating shoulder injuries to provide a baseline understanding of current treatment strategies of this injury.

Methods: A systematic review was performed to identity published literature on outcomes and management of floating shoulder injuries. Searches were performed using PubMed, Embase, and SCOPUS.

Results: Seventeen studies were identified that included data for 371 shoulders. The mean reported age was 39.4 years (range, 16-82) and the mean follow-up was 49.4 months (range, 6-312). The major mechanism of injury was motor vehicle accident (51%) followed by fall from height (16%). Of the 371 shoulders, 215 (58%) were treated surgically, whereas 156 shoulders (42%) were managed nonoperatively. The most commonly reported outcome score was the Constant-Murley score (9 studies), followed by the Herscovici Floating Shoulder Injury score (5 studies). The mean Constant-Murley score was 80% of ideal maximum for both shoulders treated surgically and those treated nonoperatively.

Conclusion: Satisfactory outcomes can be expected following both surgical fixation and nonoperative management of floating shoulder injuries when appropriately individualized to the patient, as evidenced by clinical outcome scores. Floating shoulder injuries with significant displacement of the scapular neck may benefit from surgical fixation of both the clavicle and scapula fractures. In those with minimal or nondisplaced scapular neck fractures, good outcomes may be achieved when treated nonoperatively or with surgical fixation of the clavicle alone.

Keywords: Floating shoulder; clavicle fracture; management; outcomes; scapular neck fracture; trauma.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clavicle / injuries*
  • Conservative Treatment*
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation*
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Scapula / injuries*
  • Shoulder Injuries / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Injuries / etiology
  • Shoulder Injuries / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult