Surgery for a clavicle fracture (broken collarbone) is typically done on an outpatient basis, so patients will go home the same day as surgery and will need to arrange for someone to take them home.
A sling is worn for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery for comfort and to help patients avoid movements that may impede healing. After surgery there are some movement restrictions—particularly for weight-bearing activities—but patients will be encouraged to continue to move the elbow, wrist and hand to prevent stiffness.
Patients will also be encouraged to do an exercise known as the pendulum exercise, which is done as follows:
- Remove the arm sling and stand beside a table.
- Lean forward and rest the hand of the non-affected arm on the table.
- Allow the affected arm to straighten and dangle freely.
- Gently swing the affected arm forward, backward, and in a circle for 2 to 3 minutes.
Once physicians confirm during follow-up visits that the bone is healing properly, the sling can be discontinued and normal range-of-motion activity can be resumed. Patients will also begin a course of physical therapy, which is a critical part of the recovery process to help regain strength and stability.
Removing surgical hardware
Depending on the type of surgery used to fix the bone in place, patients may also need a follow-up procedure to remove hardware.
Plate fixations usually stay in place, with intramedullary fixations sometimes involving removal of the pin once the bone is healed.
Typically patients are placed into a sling for a week or two to allow for healing of the incision, and then allowed gradual activity.
Return to normal activities
Most clavicle fractures heal after about 6 to 12 weeks. Generally, normal activity can be resumed after 6 weeks, and participation in contact sports being permitted after healing is observed. Athletes can work with their physicians to confirm when they are cleared to resume play.