Back in 2008 when I broke my collarbone, I thought it’d be cool to document my incredible clavicle adventures in my blog. Little did I know that it would be so helpful and generate this much interest among others who have experienced a similar fate and were faced with the decision of whether or not to go under the knife. Many people have emailed me thank yous, questions, and comments ever since. It’s such an amazing feeling to have helped and had such a positive impact on so many people. Hearing all these stories of successful post op rehabs also helped give me reassurance that I myself made the right choice. This had to be one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make for myself but thank goodness for the internet. I did a ton of research, learned a lot in the process, and asked so many different people (family, my doctor, medical professionals, therapists, friends, people i’ve never met before, you name it) for opinions before formulating my own decision. So with this blog, I want to pay it forward and pass along my experience and information acquired.
It’s been a bit over 3 years since getting my pre-contoured low profile titanium smith and nephew clavicular plate and 9 screws installed and I’m doing great! Occasionally people would email me to ask whether I’ve had my plate removed. The answer remains the same every time. No. It has more or less become a part of me. My orthopedic surgeon Dr. Veillette must’ve been really good and/or I’m really lucky ’cause I hardly notice it and don’t feel any extreme pain or irritations when performing workouts and everyday activities.
The only times I do feel it is if I actually touch it. On the plus side, I no longer feel any tugging of the skin around the plate 🙂 For me, the area is still a bit sensitive if I were to get a shoulder massage. Should that situation ever arise, I’d make sure they don’t apply too much pressure or squeeze too hard around my collarbone. Wearing a messenger bag on that shoulder is usually ok unless it’s a heavy load I’m carrying. In that case, I would wear the strap on my right shoulder instead.
For now I’m keeping it in because I don’t want to deal with another surgery and its possible risks. Also, I’m not really having any serious issues with it. I can still do everything I did before the accident and can even lift heavy weights overhead no problem 🙂 Hopefully I won’t have any problems 10-20 years down the road. That’s something I won’t be able to predict. I wonder if anyone out there has blogged about that…I’d be curious to know. On the flip side, Dr. V did tell me that the plate technology has come a long way and that they’re making them a lot smaller now.
So the verdict still stands – the plate stays!
So you want to get your plate taken out?
I’m not one to recommend or give advice on plate removal, but I can provide an example for those of you who have ever contemplated on getting it done. From what I’ve heard, the general consensus is that the recovery is relatively easy and those who have done it were happy.
Here’s one positive plate install & removal experience I’d like to share. Just over a year ago, one of my blog readers Steve Hoffman stumbled upon my blog after fracturing his collarbone in a nasty bike crash. His clavicle was fractured into 3 pieces and didn’t stand a good chance if any of healing naturally, so he got the ORIF surgery to repair his clavicle and has made a successful recovery.
Week 14 (plate in)
I’ve had my fancy titanium plate for 14 months now. Overall I’m in great shape. 100% ROM and am able to do yoga and most things without any trouble at all, though I do feel the plate most of the time. I have a quite thin body build and the plate is rather prominent. Most annoying is swimming due to the rotating motion of the shoulder – I really feel the plate then the most of any activity.
Steve kept his plate for 20 months then after months of research and thought and having talked to 3 surgeons and 3 people who’d had their plates taken out, he chose to get his plate taken out.
Check out his blue clavicular plate at the top of this post! Isn’t it cool? Kinda makes me wonder whether mine had a colour as well.
Reasons leading to his decision to do it:
• started to notice a tightness in the skin below the collarbone over the last 2-3 months (around week 12) – A sports doc said it was likely scar tissue in/around the pec muscle. He got some “Graston Technique” done on it, which involves using various metal tools to rub deeply into tissue to break up scar tissue, which helped his shoulder feel A LOT better! Apparently scar tissue can keep forming even over a year post-surgery. A possible reason to maybe to leave the plate in and not deal with *more* scar tissue… (for me, my numbness/tightness went away with time)
• messenger bags & car seat belts rubbing on the plate
• doing push ups or lifting heavy stuff – feeling “strain” being put on the plate
• as the numbness went down, tightness increased – regular exercise did help this a bit though.
In his own words, here are some updates on his progress after the de-plating:
“So far so good. Much easier recovery so far than when it was put in.”
“I’m 3 weeks post surgery and i feel GREAT. Very glad I had the plate out! Will be a while til I’m 100% but I’m prolly 80+% already – no problems w normal daily activities or driving. Just can’t lift heavy stuff yet.”
“I’m at 5.5 weeks and 95% healed 🙂 all’s well with the clavicle! i’d rather not have had to go thru that of course but the plating and de-plating were both excellent choices. i can do daily things and light to moderate lifting already — can sleep on it – all with no pain. i don’t even notice it anymore with seat belts or winter jackets. haven’t tried a backpack yet. the scar still needs to heal up some more but it’s coming along fine. still just a bit sensitive to direct touch.”
“I feel 99% healed. seat belts and heavy messenger bags are again essentially pain-free – just a tad of lingering soreness from the removal surgery, but that continues to improve. I’ve taken up swimming 3-4 times per week again. The first day my shoulder was a bit sore from lack of use, but after 2-3 days, swimming was also essentially pain-free. I don’t feel the “tugging” under my skin of plate-against-bone-against skin. And the numbness below the scar now is no different than it was after the plate install surgery. Or to say it another way, it’s no worse after the second surgery. It’s ended up about the same. So, suffice to say, I am VERY happy to have my plate out. 1-2 months to a full recovery is peanuts to have a lifetime of a normal collarbone again. :)”
So there you have it! Another clavtastic success story!