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Coracoid fractures are rare injuries, which may occur in isolation or in association with other shoulder pathology. The mechanism of trauma consists of a strong contraction of the conjoint tendon as a result of direct trauma. The diagnosis is usually difficult and many times overlooked, thereby requiring a high level of suspicion. In many cases, standard trauma series shoulder radiographs are unable to provide a definitive and reliable diagnosis. Therefore, other imaging modalities may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Although uncommon, if left untreated, a coracoid fracture will result in chronic pain and shoulder disability. Both conservative and surgical techniques have been previously reported and shown positive outcomes. In regard to the surgical technique, most reports describe the use of screw fixation, which has been associated with full recovery and high patient satisfaction. Nevertheless, the purpose of this Technical Note is to describe our preferred method to treat an isolated type II displaced coracoid process fracture through suture anchor fixation.
See video under supplementary data.
Coracoid fractures are uncommon injuries and usually seen in the setting of a traffic accident or fall. Although isolated coracoid fractures have been reported in the literature, these injuries are often associated with concomitant soft tissue and/or osseous shoulder injuriess.
classified the coracoid fractures into 5 groups. As part of this system, type I fractures are described as a tip or epiphyseal fracture, type II as a mid-process fracture, type III as a basal fracture, type IV as a fracture extending to the superior body of the scapula, and type V as a fracture that extends to the glenoid fossa. A more commonly used classification system was described by Ogawa et al.,
which differentiates fractures according to the relation with the attachment of the coracoclavicular ligaments. A fracture located proximal to the coracoclavicular ligaments is classified as type I, whereas a type II fracture is distal to the coracoclavicular ligaments.
The treatment of a coracoid fracture is dependent on: (1) fracture type and (2) overall instability of the fracture. The majority of type I (Ogawa classification) fractures are associated with a disruption of the superior shoulder suspensory complex, which may cause a delay in healing and typically requires definitive surgical fixation.
whereas displaced fractures often require ORIF. The purpose of this Technical Note is to describe our preferred method to treat an isolated type II displaced coracoid process fracture through suture anchor fixation.
A video overview of this technique with narration is provided (Video 1).
Patient Positioning and Anesthesia
The patient is placed in the supine position on the operating table and general anesthesia is used for induction. Single shot or catheter infusion regional anesthesia may be used as well. The patient is then brought into the beach chair position with care taken to pad all bony prominences. Moreover, the head and neck positioning should be carefully assessed before starting the procedure. We do not use an arm positioner; rather, the operative extremity is draped free with a well-padded Mayo placed under the elbow.
Preoperative evaluation should start with a thorough history and physical examination. Diagnostic imaging should consist of shoulder radiographs to assess for concomitant osseous abnormality, including fracture extension into the glenoid. Computed tomography scan allows for detailed evaluation of fracture displacement, orientation, and possible comminution. Magnetic resonance imaging of the shoulder is useful to evaluate for any concomitant loose bodies, labral, chondral, or other soft tissue injuries.
General endotracheal anesthesia may be combined with regional nerve blocks to maximize postoperative pain control. Perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis is administered intravenously before incision. A diagnostic arthroscopy is usually conducted first to directly visualize the chondral surfaces, glenoid labrum, biceps tendon, and rotator cuff. An extensive debridement of the rotator interval, as well as posterosuperior and anterosuperior synovitis, is conducted with a 4.0-mm shaver and radiofrequency device (Coblator Wand, Smith & Nephew, Andover, MA) through a 5-mm cannula (Low Profile Cannula, Arthrex, Naples, FL). Any concomitant arthroscopic procedures are carried out at this time.
The open coracoid fracture fixation is begun with a deltopectoral approach using an approximately 5-cm skin incision (Fig 1). Subcutaneous flaps are created medially and laterally, and then the cephalic vein is mobilized laterally. The clavipectoral fascia is incised proximally to the coracoid. Throughout the procedure, the axillary and musculocutaneous nerves are protected with careful retraction. In this case, as a chronic injury, the coracoid fracture has healed in a displaced position 3 cm inferior with posterior angulation, thereby leading to impingement on the subscapularis. A combination of a standard bovie and periosteal elevator is used to isolate the fracture fragment, which measures approximately 5 mm of the tip of the coracoid (Fig 2). The fracture ends are subsequently prepared with a combination of an osteotome (Fig 3), rongeur, and bone rasp (Fig 4).
Next, a musculocutaneous nerve neurolysis is conducted with Metzenbaum scissors to free up the nerve from the adjacent scar tissue surrounding the subscapularis, pectoralis minor, and conjoint tendon. Thereafter, a suture anchor (6.5-mm SwiveLock double-loaded with FiberTape, Arthrex) is placed in line with the intramedullary canal of the coracoid. The 2 suture tapes are then whipstitched through the fracture fragment and conjoined tendon and secured using a zip tie technique (Fig 5). Supplemental fixation is then achieved with 2 additional suture anchors (3.0-mm BioComposite SutureTak anchors, Arthrex) loaded with suture tape (FiberTape, Arthrex). One anchor is placed medially on the coracoid, whereas the other is placed laterally. The suture tapes from these anchors are used to reduce the conjoined tendon in a tension slide technique. Once fixation is complete, the coracoid is palpated to verify a strong final fixation (Fig 6). The advantages and disadvantages as well as pearls and pitfalls associated with this technique are listed in Tables 1 and 2, respectively.
Table 1Advantages and Disadvantages
Addresses the pain and instability associated with a displaced fragment
The patient is placed in a padded abduction shoulder sling at the end of the procedure. The sling, along with limits to 30° external rotation, 60° abduction, and 90° forward flexion, is continued for 6 weeks postoperatively. No resisted elbow flexion or weight bearing is allowed for 6 weeks postoperatively. After 6 weeks, the patient may begin progressive active range of motion without limitations and strengthening. A return to full activity is allowed at 3 to 4 months postoperatively. Postoperative radiographs are taken at 3 to 4 months after surgery to ensure a successful surgical outcome (Fig 7).
Coracoid fractures are rare and seen mainly in males; ultimately, these fractures account for roughly 3% to 13% of all scapula fractures and only 2% of all isolated scapula fractures.
The injury mechanisms described can vary from strong contraction of the conjoint tendon to direct trauma. Although commonly seen in the presence of another shoulder injury, coracoid fractures may also occur in isolation. A coracoid fracture may be overlooked if using only a conventional radiographic examination. Furthermore, recurrent shoulder instability can occur because of coracoid fractures. Ogawa et al. reported a high incidence of associated injuries with coracoid fractures.
These associated injuries included acromioclavicular dislocations, fractures of the superior scapular margin, clavicular and/or acromial fractures, scapular spine fractures, rotator cuff tears, anterior shoulder dislocations, and glenoid rim and proximal humeral fractures. Given that a coracoid fracture may be seen in the presence of such a wide variety of other injuries, a high level of clinical suspicion is needed to detect these injuries. Of all these associated injuries, rotator cuff tears and anterior shoulder dislocations were only seen in association with type I fractures only, whereas clavicular fractures were only seen in the presence of type II fractures.
Both conservative treatment and surgical treatment have been previously described in the setting of a coracoid injury with each treatment type showing positive outcomes. Martin-Herrero et al.
also found a return in normal shoulder function after conservative treatment through the use of a broad arm sling and early shoulder mobilization, thereby suggesting that even displaced type I, II, or III may be treated conservatively. Ogawa et al. treated almost all type I fractures through ORIF using a malleolar screw, whereas type II fractures were treated through conservative measures.
The authors found no statistical significant differences between conservative and surgical treatment with an overall reported “excellent” result in 87% patients at a mean follow-up of 37 months. Given these findings, the authors suggest that conservative treatment should be especially considered in type II fractures. Although conservative treatment has shown positive outcomes, indications for surgery include ≥1 cm displacement, nonunion, and gross instability.
The described technique is based on the use of suture anchor fixation instead of screw fixation to successfully complete the reattachment of the displaced coracoid fragment. Although we recommend the above technique, future long-term studies involving patient-reported outcome measures after surgery are necessary for the assessment and validation of the technique.
The patient is placed in a supine position, and then the bed is elevated to 20° because of the patient's history of coronary issues. The left shoulder is draped and prepped in a standard fashion. After this, a diagnostic arthroscopy is performed via a 5-mm portal, and then an extensive debridement with a combination of a basket and shaver is completed. A standard deltopectoral approach 5 cm in length is then used for the open repair. The incision is continued down through the fascia using Metzenbaum scissors. The coracoid fragment is roughly 5 mm in size and displaced inferiorly along with the conjoint tendon. The fragment is then isolated through the use of a No. 15 Scalpel blade, bovie cautery device, and brown handle elevator. After this, the coracoid base is prepared using a combination of a rongeurs and bone rasp to create a nice stable base for fracture fixation. The fracture fragment is next prepared with a bone rasp to provide a flat surface for apposition to the coracoid. Two FiberTape sutures are then whipstitched into the fracture fragment and conjoint tendon, and secured using a zip tie technique. A 6.5-mm SwiveLock with 2 FiberTape sutures is then placed in the center of the intramedullary canal of the coracoid down to the base of the coracoid. This provides excellent fixation and compression. Afterward, the fixation is supplemented with two 3.0-mm SutureTak BioComposite anchors placed medially and laterally on the coracoid at an angle. This provides excellent fixation and prevents inferior tilting. Then, the conjoint tendon is pulled, to examine the strength of the repair, and no displacement is seen. Afterward, a standard layered closure is performed. At 4 months after surgery, a postoperative anteroposterior radiograph is taken to examine the reincorporation of the coracoid process. An approximate distance of 15.4 mm between the coracoid process and clavicle is measured.
The authors report the following potential conflicts of interest or sources of funding: M.T.P is a consultant for Arthrex and JRF Ortho; has patent numbers (issued): 9226743, 20150164498, 20150150594, 20110040339; and receives publishing royalties from Arthrex and SLACK. Full ICMJE author disclosure forms are available for this article online, as supplementary material.