Major neurovascular complications of clavicle fracture surgery

H Clitherow, Gregory Bain

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Clavicle fracture fixation is becoming an increasingly common operation, with good clinical outcomes and a low rate of significant complications. However, there are several reports of rare but potentially life or limb threatening, neurovascular complications. Arterial injuries are usually pseudoaneurysms associated with prominent screws. These may be clinically silent for several years before presenting as subcritical upper limb ischaemia. Venous injuries are a result of tearing of the vessel wall by fracture manipulation, drills or implants. This produces intra-operative haemorrhage and potentially air embolism, which can be fatal if not rapidly recognized and managed. Brachial plexopathy is the result of traction on adherent plexus or impingement by fracture fragments or callus. It presents as severe arm pain and paralysis immediately postoperatively. Neurovascular injuries can be avoided by a combination of pre-operative planning, communication with anaesthetic staff and strategic surgical technique. The plane of the surgical exposure, release of the soft tissues, drill direction and depth and screw length are all important factors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-12
    Number of pages10
    JournalShoulder and Elbow
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


    • Air embolism
    • brachial plexopathy
    • clavicle
    • complication
    • internal fixation
    • pseudoaneurysm


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