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Open reduction and internal fixation of clavicular fractures after a delay of three months is associated with an increased risk of complications and revision surgery

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The primary aim of this study was to determine if delayed clavicular fixation results in a greater risk of operative complications and revision surgery.

Patients and Methods

A retrospective case series was undertaken of all displaced clavicular fractures that underwent plate fixation over a ten-year period (2007 to 2017). Patient demographics, time to surgery, complications, and mode of failure were collected. Logistic regression was used to identify independent risk factors contributing towards operative complications. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to determine if a potential ‘safe window’ exists from injury to delayed surgery. Propensity score matching was used to construct a case control study for comparison of risk.


A total of 259 patients were included in the analysis. Postoperative infection occurred in 3.9% of all patients (n = 10); the only variable associated was a greater time interval from injury to fixation (p = 0.001). Failed primary surgery requiring revision fixation was required in 7.7% of the cohort (n = 20), with smoking (p < 0.001), presence of a postoperative infection (p < 0.001), increasing age (p = 0.018), and greater time delay from injury to surgery (p = 0.015) identified as significant independent predictors on regression analysis. ROC analysis revealed that surgery beyond 96 days from injury increased the rate of major complications and revision surgery. Using a matched case cohort of cases before (n = 67) and after (n = 77) the ‘safe window’, the risk of postoperative infection increased (odds ratio (OR) 7.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.9 to 62.9; p = 0.028), fixation failure (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.2 to 12.1; p = 0.017) and revision surgery (OR 4.8, 95% CI 1.5 to 15.0; p = 0.004).


A delay to primary fixation of up to three months following injury may be acceptable, beyond which there is an increased risk of major operative complications and revision surgery.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:1385–1391.

Correspondence should be sent to J. A. Nicholson; email:

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