Is intramedullary nailing more effective than non-operative treatment in adults with displaced middle-third clavicle fractures?

Hill CE. Is intramedullary nailing more effective than non-operative treatment
in adults with displaced middle-third clavicle fractures? J Orthop Traumatol.
2014 May 31



Clavicle fractures are common, accounting for 5-12 % of all fractures. Traditionally, displaced middle-third clavicle fractures have been managed non-operatively but the associated displacement often leads to mal-union with shortening, cosmetic deformity and occasionally non-union, with clinicians looking towards alternative operative methods such as intramedullary nailing (IMN). However, such methods have their own complications. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of IMN in the management of middle-third clavicle fractures compared with non-operative treatment, analysis of recent evidence is required and this review aims to achieve that, focusing on relevant, contemporary randomised-control trials.


Essential search-terms identified from the research question were used to formulate a search strategy. A systematic search of multiple databases was then performed from 1966 until present and appropriate papers for appraisal identified.


Thirteen papers were identified, with 10 excluded using appropriate eligibility criteria. The remaining papers were then critically appraised. With regards shoulder function, all papers demonstrated an association between IMN and a significantly (P < 0.05) superior shoulder function score, but no consensus with regards to complication rates. However, all have identified limitations; therefore, their overall findings must be considered conservatively.


Further, high-quality research, ideally in the form of well-designed, multi-centre RCTs is required to allow acceptable implementation of IMN of middle-third clavicle fractures into widespread practice. However, early results demonstrate that in young patients with displaced middle-third clavicle fractures, who are motivated to return to work, IMN provides superior functional results and should be considered. However, the importance of considering each patient individually as to their suitability for each management option, before coming to an informed decision with the patient rather than having a blanket approach to MTCF is essential

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