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Risk Factors for Nonunion After Nonoperative Treatment of Displaced Midshaft Fractures of the Clavicle
I.R. Murray, BMedSci(Hons), MRCSEd, DipSportsMed1; C.J. Foster, MBChB1; A. Eros, MBChB1; C.M. Robinson, BMedSci(Hons), FRCSEd1
1 The Edinburgh Shoulder Clinic, The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Little France, Old Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 4SU, United Kingdom. E-mail address for C.M. Robinson: c.mike.robinson@ed.ac.uk
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Investigation performed at the Edinburgh Shoulder Clinic, The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

A commentary by Andrew H. Schmidt, MD, is linked to the online version of this article at jbjs.org.

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2013 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2013 Jul 03;95(13):1153-1158. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.01275
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Identification of patients at higher risk of nonunion after diaphyseal clavicular fractures is desirable to improve patient counseling and enable targeted surgical treatment.


Seventy-nine percent (941 of 1196) of diaphyseal clavicular fractures were followed to union or nonunion. Demographic, injury, and radiographic characteristics associated with nonunion were determined with use of bivariate and multivariate statistical analyses.


In patients who were eighteen years of age or older, 125 (13.3%) of the fractures had clinical and radiographic evidence of nonunion. Factors significantly associated with nonunion on bivariate analysis were sex, smoking status, overall fracture displacement, overlap, translation, and comminution. The factors that maintained significance on multivariate analysis were smoking (odds ratio, 3.76), comminution (odds ratio, 1.75), and fracture displacement (odds ratio, 1.17). If all displaced midshaft fractures were managed operatively, 7.5 procedures would need to be undertaken to prevent a single nonunion. If only fractures with a predicted probability of ≥40% were managed operatively, the number of patients managed operatively to prevent a single nonunion would fall to 1.7.


Thirteen percent of displaced diaphyseal fractures in patients who were at least eighteen years of age did not heal. Smoking was the strongest risk factor, and smoking cessation should be an integral part of treatment. The probability of nonunion in a particular individual can be estimated with use of a statistical model based on known risk factors. This information can be useful when counseling the patient even though nonunion remains difficult to predict accurately in that individual. The number who would need to be treated to prevent a single nonunion can be reduced by identifying those at higher risk.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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