Tobacco, in addition to being one of the greatest public health threats facing our world, is believed to have deleterious effects on bone metabolism and especially on bone healing. It has been described in the literature that patients who smoke are approximately twice as likely to develop a nonunion following a non-specific bone fracture. For clavicle fractures, this risk is unclear, as is the impact that such a complication might have on the initial management of these fractures.
A systematic review and meta-analysis were performed for conservatively treated displaced midshaft clavicle fractures. Embase, PubMed, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (via Cochrane Library) were searched from inception to 12 May 2022, with supplementary searches in Open Grey, ClinicalTrials.gov, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, and Google Scholar. The searches were performed without limits for publication date or languages.
The meta-analysis included eight studies, 2,285 observations, and 304 events (nonunion). The random effects model predicted a pooled risk ratio (RR) of 3.68 (95% confidence interval 1.87 to 7.23), which can be considered significant (p = 0.003). It indicates that smoking more than triples the risk of nonunion when a fracture is treated conservatively.
Smoking confers a RR of 3.68 for developing a nonunion in patients with a displaced middle third clavicle fracture treated conservatively. We know that most patients with pseudarthrosis will have pain and a poor functional outcome. Therefore, patients should be informed of the significantly higher risks of nonunion and offered smoking cessation efforts and counselling. Moreover, surgery should be considered for any patient who smokes with this type of fracture.
Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(7):801–807.