Floating shoulder describes a condition where a combination of fractures of the scapula (glenoid [socket] neck) and the clavicle fracture result in structural separation of the shoulder joint and arm from the shoulder girdle. It also is referred to as a double disruption of the superior shoulder suspensory complex. This is a rare injury that results most commonly from major trauma, such as a fall from a significant height or a motor vehicle accident. Depending on the stability of the injuries, some floating shoulders can be treated non-operatively, some may require fixation of the clavicle alone while others are best treated with open reduction and internal fixation of both the clavicle and scapula fractures. Fixation of either or both bones is indicated only when both are significantly displaced.
For displaced and unstable fractures, Dr. Chudik performs limited, open reduction and fixation of either one or both fractures of the clavicle or scapula. In many cases, reducing and fixing the clavicle with a plate and screws sufficiently stabilizes the scapula fracture to allow sufficient early motion and healing. In other cases where both fractures are unstable, Dr. Chudik will expose them and fix through separate incisions.