FRACTURES OF THE SHOULDER BLADE (BROKEN SCAPULA)
What is the scapula?
Triangular, mobile, and protected by a complex system of surrounding muscles, the shoulder blade (scapula) is rarely broken. Scapula fractures represent less than 1% of all broken bones. The Scapula attaches to the collarbone and acts as the socket-like portion of the shoulder joint attaching to the humerus of the upper arm.
What would cause a Scapula Fracture?
The Scapula is rarely fractured as it is a highly protected bone that has a large range of movement. The triangular shape of the scapula adds strength and limits the angles of approach that could cause fracture. However, high-energy blunt force trauma, such as that experienced in a motorcycle or motor vehicle collision or falling from significant height, can fracture the scapula and cause other major injuries, including broken ribs or damage to the head, lungs, or spinal cord.
Symptoms of a Scapula Fracture
Symptoms of a scapula fracture include extreme pain when moving the arm, swelling around the back of the shoulder, and skin abrasions and deep bruising. Treatment of a fractured scapula can result in chronic shoulder pain and disability from reduced range of motion. Treatment will need to be acquired promptly, but even with treatment the trauma to the shoulder blade will alter the functionality of the shoulder joint and can eventually lead to the development of post traumatic arthritis of the shoulder joint. With proper treatment of the fracture and follow up on the progression of post traumatic arthritis the joint may be spared being damaged to the point of needing eventual total shoulder joint replacement.
Treatment of a Scapula Fracture
If you have fractured your scapula treatment may be as easy as properly aligning the shoulder blade and immobilizing the shoulder joint in a sling for a matter of weeks, or even the possible use of a joint immobilizer to prevent motion. Complex fractures involving multiple pieces are more likely to require surgical fixation with plates and screws.
Recovery from a Scapula Fracture
Most fractures of the scapula are going to be resolved within six weeks for the healing phase. After this time physical therapy may be required to regain range of motion and strength to the shoulder joint. It is important to follow up with progressive pain after the fracture of any joint to rule out or treat post traumatic joint arthritis.