Fracture of the scapula or shoulder blade is common in vehicle collisions and accidents that involve falling from a height. While most such fractures can be treated by non-surgical methods such as the use of a sling and ice and pain medications, surgery may be required in a few rare cases of severe damage.
The scapula is surrounded by a protective covering of several muscles. An injury that fractures this bone is often likely to damage to other adjoining parts such as the collarbone, head, ribs, spinal cord, and lungs.
Thomas & Bigler Knee and Shoulder Institute, led by board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Dr. Gregory T. Bigler, provides orthopedic surgery to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada, while also serving areas such as greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, and Mesquite, NV.
Symptoms of Scapular Fracture
Half of the patients who present with a scapula fracture come in with a fracture of the main body of the shoulder bone. About one-fourth of patients show fracture of the neck of the scapula. The common symptoms of a scapular fracture include:
- Severe pain when you attempt to move the arm
- Swelling in the area behind the shoulder
- Scrapes around the damaged area
Once you notice the symptoms of a shoulder blade fracture, it is vital you seek treatment at the earliest to ensure the damage does not increase.
Non-Surgical Modes of Treatment
The most commonly used non-surgical treatment for scapular fracture is a simple sling. This helps to hold the shoulder in place while the bones heal. Within one week, the doctor will advise you to begin mild shoulder movements to avoid stiffness of the shoulder and the elbow.
After you find a reduction in the pain, the surgeon will ask you to remove the sling and start performing passive stretching exercises. Either the surgeon or a physical therapist will guide you with the exercise which you must continue for about six months to one year until your shoulder regains its full range of motion.
Surgery for Scapula Fracture
Scapula fractures that are more complex will require surgery for treatment. Some cases when this is recommended are:
- Scapular neck fracture accompanied by noticeable angulation
- Glenoid articular surface fracture with bone displacement
- Fracture that affects the acromion process, resulting in impingement syndrome
In a scapular surgery, the surgeon first aligns the fragments of the bone into the correct position. Using metal plates and special screws, they attach the fragments together and to the outer surface of the bone. After a period of rehabilitation, the shoulder will regain its normal function.
Pain Management in Scapular Fracture
Scapular fractures cause a significant amount of pain and your surgeon will prescribe pain medications to deal with it. Most doctors advise the use of a combination of NSAIDs, opioids and local anesthetics to combat the pain. This combination helps reduce the dose of the opioids which must be used strictly according to the doctor’s instructions.
To avoid chances of an overdose or dependency, your surgeon will stop your opioid medication after your pain abates. Orthopedic surgeons Dr. Thomas and Dr. Bigler receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada as well as greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, and Mesquite, NV for orthopedic surgery.
Contact Board Certified Surgeons Dr. Bigler or Dr. Thomas at the Knee and Shoulder Institute in Las Vegas, NV to Schedule an Appointment:
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Serving patients from and around greater Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, Mesquite, Pahrump, Nevada.