Scapula Fracture


Article Author:
Christopher Libby


Article Editor:
Thomas Bentley


Editors In Chief:
Yvonne Carter
Jason Wallen


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
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Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
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Saad Nazir
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Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
3/15/2019 10:12:41 AM

Introduction

The earliest description of a shoulder fracture was published in 1805 in P.J. Desault’s Treatise on Fractures and Luxations, and other affections of the bones.[1] Scapular fractures are uncommon, accounting for approximately 3-5% of all fractures of the shoulder girdle and less than 1% of total fractures. This is thought to be because they typically required high-energy trauma which also results in multi-system injuries[2]. Research shows that 80-95% of scapular fractures are associated with other injuries.[3] Because of the high energy needed to fracture the scapula and its association with other injuries, morbidity and mortality reports are relatively high.[4] However, emerging data has shown that scapular fractures with lower injury severity scores (ISS) do not carry the same associated increase in morbidity and mortality.[5] Treatment for scapular fractures was traditionally conservative with closed treatment; however, evaluation by an orthopedic trauma surgeon be the norm, as newer advancements in operative treatment have improved functional outcomes, and significant displacement is associated with poor long-term outcomes.

Etiology

As high as 80-90% of all scapular fractures occurred during high-energy trauma such as motor vehicle collisions, falls, and other high impact trauma.[6] Direct force may cause fractures of any region of the scapula while impaction of the humeral head into the glenoid fossa is often responsible for scapular neck and glenoid fractures. Motor vehicle collisions account for over 70% of scapular fractures, with 52% associated with drivers and 18% associated with pedestrians struck by motor vehicles.[6] Other reported mechanisms include electric shock and seizure because of forces on the scapula. Isolated scapular fractures are rare.[7]

Epidemiology

Scapular fractures account for approximately 0.4-1% of all fractures,[3] 3% of all fractures of the shoulder, and 5% of all fractures of the shoulder girdle.[8] Scapular fractures preferentially occur in young males (M: F = 6:49) between the ages of 25 and 50 years old and most often occur in the body or the glenoid.

  • Body: 45%
  • Glenoid Process: 35%
  • Acromion: 8%
  • Coracoid: 7%

Pathophysiology

Anatomy

The scapula, more popularly known as the shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the clavicle to the humerus. It is a triangular shape with four major processes: the spine, the acromion, the coracoid process, and the glenoid process: the scapula functions as the attachment site for 18 muscles which connected to the thorax, spine, and upper extremity. The scapula, besides the clavicle and humerus, provides rotational movement of the upper extremity and assist with abduction and rotation at the glenohumeral joint.[9] 

Pathophysiology

Due to the force required to fracture of the scapula, there is a wide variety of fracture patterns reported. Fractures are classified based on the anatomical location on the scapula with fracture occurred. The Orthopedic Trauma Association has proposed a classification system at two levels: level 1 as a basic system for all trauma surgeons and level 2 for specialized shoulder surgeons. While this classification system is useful for classifying scapular fractures to identify the appropriate follow-up, no studies have correlated the grading system with prognosis. 

History and Physical

The most common mechanism is blunt or penetrating trauma directly to the scapula.

Evaluation

Because of the high energy needed to fracture the scapula, most patients found to have fractures of the scapula will have multiple other injuries. The patient should undergo evaluation as a trauma patient. However, there are specific potentially life-threatening injuries associated with scapular fractures that require assessment. For example, thoraco-scapular dissociations with disruptions of the subclavian vein and axillary vessels can lead to life-threatening hemorrhage.[10]

Diagnostic imaging should be performed to evaluate both scapular fractures and associated trauma. While conventional radiographs including an anterior-posterior, lateral, and axillary views are sufficient for evaluation of most scapular fractures, conventional radiography often misses associated injuries. Therefore, the recommendation is that a CT scan is performed in the evaluation of scapular fractures.[11] If there is a concern for the involvement of a joint, MRI may be needed to evaluate for ligamentous injury. 3D reconstruction of CT imaging may be helpful in determining management approaches and the need for surgical intervention. 

Treatment / Management

Most scapular fractures are managed effectively with closed treatment and medical management. In minimally displaced fractures, which account for more than 90% of scapular fractures, management is with short-term immobilization in a sling and swath.[12] Patients should progress as quickly as possible to early range of motion exercises to prevent frozen shoulder as tolerated. 

Scapular fractures themselves are rarely surgical emergencies, except for cases with thoracic penetration or dislocation causing rupture of nearby vascular structures. Fractures with significant displacement can cause long-term morbidity and poor outcomes of the shoulder which would be strong candidates for surgical techniques. Therefore, all scapular fracture should undergo evaluation for operative treatment. 

 Surgery is always recommended if there is a relevant alteration to the following: 

  1. Scapula suspensory systems (SSSC; C4 linkage) 
  2. Position integrity of the glenoid 
  3. Lateral column displacement is present 

However, since scapular fractures are often associated with other high-energy trauma, any operative management of scapular fracture should be delayed until the patient is stable. 

Prognosis

Fractures found to be non-operative and managed conservatively have been shown to have good to excellent functional outcomes 86% of the time. Less than 1% of fractures require operative treatment, but studies demonstrate that operative patients have excellent functional outcomes.[13] Rehabilitation typically involves six weeks of the active and active-assisted range of motion; strength training begins approximately 3-4 months post injury or surgery. Patients can often expect virtually no functional deficits for non-operative fractures and good to excellent results in fractures requiring surgical intervention. 

Pearls and Other Issues

1. Scapular fractures are usually the result of a significant force. Because of this, they often carry an association with other injuries.  

Associated injuries include:

  • Rib fractures 
  • Hips lateral lung injuries 
  • Injuries to the shoulder girdle complex 
  • Neurovascular injuries 
  • Suprascapular nerve injuries 
  • Vertebral compression fractures 

2. The evaluation should include radiographic imaging and CT scan. 

3. All scapular fractures should undergo evaluation by an orthopedic or trauma surgeon.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Since 1978, interdisciplinary teams have been identified by the World Health Organization as essential to high-quality care.[14] Given that scapular fractures typically occur in association with other traumatic injuries, highly competent, professional trauma teams deliver the needed care. Trauma teams will often comprise trauma surgeons, orthopedic traumatologists, emergency physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, and other specialized personnel. Effective communication and utilization of the skills of each of the members of the team result and higher quality care and better patient outcomes.[15]


  • Image 7260 Not availableImage 7260 Not available
    Contributed by Dr. Christopher Libby, with permission from Suedkamp N, Izadpanah K. 2014. European Surgical Orthopedics and Traumatology. Springer: Berlin
Attributed To: Contributed by Dr. Christopher Libby, with permission from Suedkamp N, Izadpanah K. 2014. European Surgical Orthopedics and Traumatology. Springer: Berlin

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Scapula Fracture - Questions

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Which of the following is correct about scapular fractures?



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Which of the following scapular fractures requires an anterior approach for fixation?



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Which of the following statements concerning scapular fractures is true?



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Scapula Fracture - References

References

Armstrong CP,Van der Spuy J, The fractured scapula: importance and management based on a series of 62 patients. Injury. 1984 Mar     [PubMed]
Ideberg R,Grevsten S,Larsson S, Epidemiology of scapular fractures. Incidence and classification of 338 fractures. Acta orthopaedica Scandinavica. 1995 Oct     [PubMed]
Baldwin KD,Ohman-Strickland P,Mehta S,Hume E, Scapula fractures: a marker for concomitant injury? A retrospective review of data in the National Trauma Database. The Journal of trauma. 2008 Aug     [PubMed]
Brown CV,Velmahos G,Wang D,Kennedy S,Demetriades D,Rhee P, Association of scapular fractures and blunt thoracic aortic injury: fact or fiction? The American surgeon. 2005 Jan     [PubMed]
Weening B,Walton C,Cole PA,Alanezi K,Hanson BP,Bhandari M, Lower mortality in patients with scapular fractures. The Journal of trauma. 2005 Dec     [PubMed]
Cowan PT,Varacallo M, Anatomy, Back, Scapula null. 2018 Jan     [PubMed]
Tarquinio T,Weinstein ME,Virgilio RW, Bilateral scapular fractures from accidental electric shock. The Journal of trauma. 1979 Feb     [PubMed]
McGahan JP,Rab GT,Dublin A, Fractures of the scapula. The Journal of trauma. 1980 Oct     [PubMed]
Zelle BA,Pape HC,Gerich TG,Garapati R,Ceylan B,Krettek C, Functional outcome following scapulothoracic dissociation. The Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume. 2004 Jan     [PubMed]
Lantry JM,Roberts CS,Giannoudis PV, Operative treatment of scapular fractures: a systematic review. Injury. 2008 Mar     [PubMed]
Voleti PB,Namdari S,Mehta S, Fractures of the scapula. Advances in orthopedics. 2012     [PubMed]
Zlowodzki M,Bhandari M,Zelle BA,Kregor PJ,Cole PA, Treatment of scapula fractures: systematic review of 520 fractures in 22 case series. Journal of orthopaedic trauma. 2006 Mar     [PubMed]
Gillam S, Is the declaration of Alma Ata still relevant to primary health care? BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 2008 Mar 8     [PubMed]
Courtenay M,Nancarrow S,Dawson D, Interprofessional teamwork in the trauma setting: a scoping review. Human resources for health. 2013 Nov 5     [PubMed]
McGinnis M,Denton JR, Fractures of the scapula: a retrospective study of 40 fractured scapulae. The Journal of trauma. 1989 Nov     [PubMed]

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