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Clinical Features

Patients with simple sprains have pain and tenderness localized to the joint, whereas patients with dislocations have severe pain, which is exacerbated by arm motion and lying supine. In anterior dislocations, the medial clavicle is visibly prominent and palpable anterior to the sternum. In posterior dislocations, the medial clavicle is less visible and often not palpable. Symptoms of hoarseness, dysphagia, dyspnea, upper extremity paresthesia, or weakness may indicate life-threatening injuries to mediastinal structures, such as pneumothorax or compression or laceration of surrounding great vessels, trachea, and esophagus.

Diagnosis and Differential

Computed tomography (CT) is the imaging test of choice. However, the contrast may be needed to detect injury to adjacent mediastinal structures. Consider septic arthritis in the nontraumatic patient, especially in injection drug users.

Emergency Department Care and Disposition

Treatment for sternoclavicular sprains and uncomplicated anterior dislocations includes ice, analgesics, and sling immobilization. Attempted closed reduction is not necessary as this injury is often unstable. Posterior dislocations require immediate orthopedic consultation for open reduction and internal fixation.


Clinical Features

Patients with clavicle fractures present with pain, swelling, and tenderness over the clavicle. The scapula is a well-protected bone; therefore, fractures usually occur in association with injuries to the ipsilateral lung, thorax, and shoulder girdle. Patients have pain and localized tenderness over the scapula, hold their arm in adduction, and resist any arm movement.

Diagnosis and Differential

Routine radiographs may miss some clavicle and scapular fractures. CT can confirm the diagnosis as well as identify any associated pathology.

Emergency Department and Disposition

The majority of clavicle and scapula fractures can be managed conservatively with sling immobilization, ice, and analgesics. Early range-of-motion exercises are important. Orthopedic consultation is warranted for clavicle fractures that are open, have neurovascular compromise, or have persistent skin tenting. Clavicle fractures that are severely comminuted or displaced may benefit from operative intervention so consider early referral to orthopedics in those instances. Presence of a scapula fracture mandates investigation for associated intrathoracic injuries. Displaced glenoid articular fractures, angulated glenoid neck fractures, and certain acromial and coracoid fractures may require surgical intervention.


Clinical Features

Acromioclavicular joint injuries range from mild sprain to complete disruption of all ligaments that attach the scapula and clavicle. AC joint injuries occur from a direct force to the joint with the arm adducted or from a fall on the outstretched hand with an indirect force transmitted to the joint. Classification of these injuries and their physical findings are described in Table 172-1.

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