Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Broken Collarbones

I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on broken collarbones. Fascinating and oddly re-assuring at the same time. In a way, doctors have an overly blasé attitude towards them. Its not unwarranted though. Multiple types of treatments have been devised and tried, but research shows the old method of the arm placed in a sling for a few weeks is actually highly effective.

It is the most common fracture, caused by a multitude of accidents. Oddly enough the collar bone is almost redundant in modern man. People born with a congenital illness and don’t have them, lead perfectly normal lives. Pirate Pete’s breakage was the most common, a clean snap right in the middle of the bone. His is somewhat complicated in that the two ends are offset. That is, one bone end is below the other.

There is a mode of thought that says the bone should be re-set, then held in place as with other bone injuries. The problem is this particular bone is very difficult to hold in place. There have been numerous devices tried, from complex figure of eight harnesses to things called collar circles. None is hugely effective as unless you completely immobilise the arm and shoulder, there is movement. They are also fairly painful, as they keep the shoulder in an unnatural position, plus they leave the bone ends moving against each other, both of which can be very uncomfortable.

The human body is a wondrous thing. It uses some of the same techniques as other breaks, but with a few differences. The two bone ends bleed both blood, and bone marrow. This forms a jelly around the breakage. This is fairly flexible, and allows some measure of movement which ideally allows the bone ends to pull back into the correct straight shape. Over time the bone marrow & white blood cells turns this jelly into a fibrous mass, then builds new bone. Eventually this bone knot will dissolve at the edges and form a fairly clean straight bone.

It is particularly effective with children. As my pirate is heading into a high growth phase of his life, he will likely end up with a good bone possibly stronger than the previous one. It may have a bump, but even that might heal completely.

There can be complications. Sometimes the bone ends don’t heal. It is possible the won’t straighten and will leave a kink or protrusion. This is more likely the older you get. Also, the break is still at a delicate stage. It is easy to rebreak, and worse case have the bone break the skin.

We shall have to wait and see. At the moment Pirate Pete is coping just fine. He chose not to have pain killers this morning, and is quite bright and chirpy. My family have a history of a high tolerance for pain, which he seems to have inherited. Already he’s starting to move the arm about, so it looks like the break has stabilised. In a way the timing is both good and bad.

He’s in his last week of school, so it means he doesn’t have to miss out much on his sport. However, we’re off on holiday this Saturday, so its also not the best of timing. We won’t be able to do some of the more active things we like. Given the weather though, it might end up being a bit of an indoors holiday anyway! We shall see, at least he’s happy and out of pain at the moment.


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