Question:My husband fell from the hayloft of our barn while loading hay. The doctor says he fractured both his collarbone and his shoulder blade. It's almost harvest time. How long can we expect he'll be laid up?
Answer:In a normal, healthy adult, bone fractures usually take four to six weeks to heal. If there are other health problems such as heart disease or diabetes, healing can take longer. Recovery is also slower in anyone who smokes or uses tobacco products.
Without surgery, an injury of this type would be treated with a shoulder sling. The arm is immobilized to prevent the fracture from separating, which would then require surgery. The sling can also help with pain management.
X-rays are taken at the time of the injury and repeated in about four to six weeks. If healing is coming along, then a program of physical therapy is advised. The therapist will teach your husband how to stretch and strengthen the arm.
Usually the results are good to excellent but it does take time. Function returns a little at a time. Pain goes away gradually, too. Recovery can be a lot slower if there is soft tissue damage. This is especially true if the ligaments were torn at the same time the bones were broken. In these cases, if the shoulder is unstable, then surgery may be needed. Recovery is much longer with surgery.Michael J. DeFranco, MD, and Brendan M. Patterson, MD. The Floating Shoulder. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. August 2006. Vol. 14. No. 8. Pp. 499-509.
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