Shoulder fracture surgery

Shoulder fracture surgery is a procedure to treat a broken bone in the shoulder. Shoulder fractures involve the clavicle (collar bone), humerus (arm bone) or scapula (shoulder blade). Although many of these injuries heal on their own, others require surgery to heal properly and in the correct position. In addition, some untreated fractures can lead to early arthritis of the shoulder joint.

The type of surgery performed depends on the degree of damage, whether or not the fracture is displaced (out of position), and the bones and soft tissues affected. Surgical options include:

  • Repair with hardware. The surgeon repositions the two ends of the facture into their normal alignment and holds them together with wires, pins, plates or screws.
  • Partial shoulder replacement. The surgeon replaces the diseased head of the humerus with a prosthetic metal implant, while the other half of the shoulder joint, the glenoid, is left intact.
  • Total shoulder replacement. The surgeon replaces the diseased head of the humerus with a highly polished metal ball attached to a stem, and replaces the glenoid with a plastic socket.
  • Reverse shoulder replacement. In some complex fractures, the surgeon replaces the fractured head of the humerus with a socket attached to a stem in the arm bone, and replaces the glenoid with a highly-polished metal ball. The shoulder functions normally, although the positions of the ball and socked have been reversed.


The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones: the humerus, scapula and clavicle. The muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder provide stability and support. All of these structures allow the shoulder to rotate through a greater range of motion than any other joint in the body.

When is surgery recommended?

Shoulder fracture surgery is recommended if the injury is severe, or the shoulder joint is displaced, not healing properly or not healing in the correct position. Surgery may also be necessary if the shoulder joint is very unstable.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery time varies based on your original injury and the type of surgery you have. A careful, well-planned rehabilitation program is critical to the success of shoulder fracture surgery. Most patients wear a sling for three to four weeks. Gentle physical therapy begins immediately following surgery to regain range of motion and progresses to include exercises that strengthen the shoulder joint. Total rehabilitation time usually takes several months, but as with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.

Shoulder fracture surgeons

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