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Broken Shoulder Blade

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When to Seek Medical Care

Call your doctor if you notice these conditions:
 

  • Pain with movement of the affected shoulder
  • Swelling of the shoulder
  • Bruising around the shoulder
  • If shoulder pain fails to improve within 3-5 days

Significant trauma to the shoulder, chest wall, back, or neck can cause severe injuries and should be evaluated in a hospital's emergency department.

  • If you experience the following, call 911 for an ambulance immediately:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Decreased sensation in the affected arm
    • Abdominal pain
  • Go to the emergency department for evaluation if you experience the following:
    • Severe pain or deformity of the shoulder
    • Inability to move the shoulder or arm
    • Weakness, numbness, or persistent tingling in the injured arm

Exams and Tests

A doctor will be able to diagnose a broken shoulder blade after a thorough physical examination and imaging.

  • Shoulder and chest x-rays are taken.
  • CT scans of the abdomen and chest are sometimes indicated to evaluate other injuries.
  • CT scans of the shoulder are sometimes needed to diagnose fractures of the shoulder socket (glenoid).
  • Fractures of the scapula are sometimes discovered during extensive evaluations after major trauma from falls, motor vehicle accidents, or direct trauma.

Broken Shoulder Blade Treatment Self-Care at Home

Because shoulder blade fractures are often associated with severe, potentially life-threatening injuries, they should be evaluated in a hospital's emergency department.
 

  • Immobilize the arm immediately. Don't move it. This can be accomplished with a sling looped over the neck and the bent elbow, which holds the affected arm close to the body.
  • Apply ice to the area to reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, and avoid direct contact of the ice to the skin.

Medical Treatment

The goal of treatment is to maintain function of the shoulder. Most fractures of the body of the scapula are treated without surgery.
 

  • Ice is used for swelling, and pain medications are used for pain control.
  • The shoulder is immobilized in a shoulder sling for 3-4 weeks until the pain goes away.

Surgery

Surgical treatment may be needed for certain types of scapular fractures, mostly those involving the shoulder socket (glenoid) or neck of the shoulder blade. Early consultation with an orthopedic surgeon (a surgeon who specializes in bone injuries) will help determine what course of treatment is best for you.

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