A scapula fracture is an uncommon injury. The scapula, or shoulder blade, is a wide, flat bone that sits behind the rib cage. The scapula connects to the clavicle (collar bone) in the front of the body, and to the humerus (arm bone) at the side. Part of the scapula is lined with cartilage (the glenoid) and forms the socket of the ball-and-socket shoulder joint.
Types of scapula fractures
Without treatment, a fractured scapula can result in chronic shoulder pain and disability.
To determine appropriate treatment, your doctor will probably need to take X-rays (radiographs) of your shoulder and chest to describe and classify the location(s) of fracture to the scapula. In some instances, your doctor may also need to use other diagnostic imaging tools such as computed tomography (CT).
One or more parts of the scapula may be fractured:
Nonsurgical treatment with a simple sling works for most fractures of the scapula. The immobilization device holds your shoulder in place while the bone heals. Your doctor may want you to start early range-of-motion exercises within the first week after the injury. Other fractures may need 2 to 4 weeks of immobilization.
Your shoulder may feel stiff when the doctor removes the sling. Begin limited active use of your shoulder immediately. Passive stretching exercises should be continued until complete shoulder motion returns. This may take 6 months to 1 year.
If you have an isolated scapular body fracture, your doctor may want you to stay in the hospital. Certain types of scapular fractures may need further evaluation:
In these instances, you may need surgery in which the doctor uses plates and screws to hold the bone together.