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by Bodine WA
(Shoulder Blade Fracture)

Definition

The scapula is a triangle-shaped bone in the shoulder. It is important to movements of the shoulder and arm. A scapula fracture is a break to this bone.

Causes

A scapula fracture is caused by a blow to the bone. It is most often caused by trauma.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of a scapula fracture include:

  • Osteoporosis—decreased bone mass which weakens bones and affects both men and women
  • Accidents or violence
  • Participation in sports
  • Child abuse
  • Conditions that increase the risk of fall, such as nerve or muscle disorders

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Shoulder pain, especially with movement
  • Decreased range of motion of the shoulder
  • Swelling in upper back-shoulder area

This type of fracture happens with a lot of trauma. There may also be damage to ribs, lungs, or collar bone.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. You will also be asked how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. Images of your shoulder and chest may be done with:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan

Treatment

Most scapula fractures heal without surgery. It may take 6 months to 1 year to regain full movement in the shoulder. Treatment options include:

Supportive Care

A sling may be needed. It will help protect and support the shoulder while it heals. It may also help keep the bones aligned.

Exercise or a rehab program may be needed after the bone heals. It will help regain strength and movement in the shoulder.

Surgery

A severe fracture may need surgery. It may be needed to bring pieces of the bone together.

Prevention

Accidents can't always be prevented. The following may reduce the risk of a fracture in an accident:

  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment in sports or activities.

Some people have a high risk of falls. Safety steps around the house may help to reduce this risk.

RESOURCES

The American Academy of Family Physicians  http://familydoctor.org/ 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org  http://www.orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation  http://www.canorth.org 

Health Canada  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca 

References

Scapular fracture. Radiopaedia website. Available at: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/scapular-fracture. Accessed March 3, 2019.

Scapula fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T903864/Scapula-fracture-emergency-management#Imaging-tests. Accessed March 3, 2019.

Scapula (shoulder blade) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00359 Updated March 2012. Accessed March 3, 2019.

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