- Case report
- Open Access
Safe surgical technique: reconstruction of the sternoclavicular joint for posttraumatic arthritis after posterior sternoclavicular dislocation
© Stahel et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 5 December 2013
Accepted: 26 December 2013
Published: 31 December 2013
Posttraumatic sternoclavicular arthritis related to chronic ligamentous instability after posterior sternoclavicular dislocation represents a rare but challenging problem. The current article in the Journal’s “Safe Surgical Technique” series describes a successful salvage procedure by partial resection of the medial clavicle and ligamentous reconstruction of the sternoclavicular joint with a figure-of-eight semitendinosus allograft interposition arthroplasty.
Since the first description of a traumatic posterior sternoclavicular dislocation 170 years ago , several anecdotal case reports have been published on this rare injury pattern [2–8]. While uncommon, posterior sternoclavicular dislocations represent potentially life-threatening injuries due to the close proximity of the posterior mediastinal structures [9, 10]. Aside from the risk of a vascular injury , tracheal tears and esophageal compression have been described, which lead to acute dyspnea and dysphagia . Additional associated injuries include a traumatic vocal cord palsy  and brachial plexus injury . Establishing an early diagnosis is difficult since these injuries are frequently missed [5, 15, 16]. Clinically, patients with traumatic posterior sternoclavicular dislocations are in significant pain, potentially associated with venous congestion, shortness of breath, and dysphagia. The medial end of the clavicle is typically palpable lateral to the jugular notch, and when displaced posteriorly, the corner of the sternum is exposed to palpation. As the clinical examination frequently remains equivocal, radiographic studies are required to establish the diagnosis [5, 16, 17]. Conventional radiographs are not sensitive for posterior sternoclavicular dislocations, and computed tomography (CT) represents the imaging modality of choice [18, 19].
Acute management strategies
Due to the proximity of the sternoclavicular joint to vulnerable structures in the superior mediastinum, dislocations must be reduced as early as possible . Forty to fifty percent of all posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocations are successfully managed by closed reduction [21, 22]. The most frequently described reduction maneuver consists of an ‘abduction/traction’-technique with the patient placed in supine position with a bump or sandbag between the shoulders, and gradual traction applied to the abducted arm, with slow progression to extension . If the reduction maneuver is successful, the clavicle reduces with an audible ‘popping’ sound. Some authors recommend the use of a percutaneous sterile towel clip to grasp the medial clavicle with lateral and anterior traction . About 50% of all closed reduction attempts are unsuccessful and place the patient at risk of additional harm . Severe complications have been reported after closed reduction maneuvers. As an example, a “near miss” complication has been described in which the medial clavicle perforated the right pulmonary artery, and surgical exploration revealed that acute bleeding was prevented by the clavicle compressing the artery . In this circumstance, a closed reduction maneuver would have likely resulted in unforeseen disaster. Thus, multiple authors recommend the early open surgical treatment of posterior sternoclavicular dislocations [26–29]. The ‘classic’ operative technique described by Burrows in 1951 consists of a subclavius tenodesis for stabilization of the sternoclavicular joint . Multiple additional surgical techniques have more recently been described, including fixation with cannulated screws , bridge plating [31, 32], cable fixation , artificial ligament reconstruction , and tendon reconstruction of the disrupted capsular/ligamentous complex [35, 36]. Of note, the use of Kirschner wires has been abandoned due to the risk of pin migration resulting in delayed penetration of vascular structures [37, 38]. Interpositional arthroplasty utilizing the sternal head of the sternocleidomastoid muscle has been recommended in conjunction with resection of the medial clavicle . Resection of the medial clavicle alone, however, has been associated with poor outcomes, particularly in cases with residual ligamentous instability [40–42].
Applied surgical anatomy
Meticulous care has to be taken not to plunge across the far cortex of the medial clavicle, due to the close proximity of posterior vascular structures, and not to extend the resection more than 1 cm laterally in order to preserve the insertion of the costoclavicular ligament. A malleable retractor is placed posterior to the clavicle to protect from the tip of the drill bit, and the osteotomy across the far cortex is carefully completed by the use of an osteotome. The resected part of the medial clavicle should not extend beyond 1 cm in length (small insert in Figure 8).
The antero-posterior drill holes are placed at a distance of 1 cm medial to the lateral sternal border, and 1 cm lateral to the site of the medial clavicular resection, to ensure no breach of the residual cortical bridge. We recommend using consecutive drill bit sizes in ascending order of 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm, and 4.5 mm to ensure adequacy of placement of the intraarticular drill holes for the ligament transfer. A drill hole of 4.5 mm diameter is the minimum requirement for successful passing of the semitendinosus tendon graft.
Temporary sutures are passed through the sternum to mark the drill holes and facilitate passage of the tendon graft (Figure 9B). The medullary canal of the clavicle is then drilled with a 4.5 mm drill bit and opened with a curette (Figure 9C). A temporary suture is passed through the clavicular drill holes, exiting the medullary canal (Figure 9D). The semitendinosus allograft is secured on a braided non-absorbable suture (e.g. Fiberwire®, Arthrex, Naples, FL) and passed through the medullary canal of the clavicle (Figure 10). The tendon graft is then passed in a figure-of-eight position through the tagged drill holes in the clavicle and sternum (Figure 11).
It is important to hold the sternoclavicular joint reduced in anatomic position prior to tying two consecutive knots with the ends of the tendon within the residual joint space. The knot of the tendon within the joint space serves as a ‘spacer’ for the resection arthroplasty of the medial clavicle (Figure 11).
✓ Posterior sternoclavicular dislocations are rare injuries which are frequently missed. Delayed diagnosis may relate to the fact that a plain chest radiograph is not sensitive in detecting this injury pattern (Figure 3). The ‘gold standard’ for establishing diagnosis is by clinical examination and CT scan (Figure 4).
✓ Many authors recommend the early open reduction and surgical fixation of posterior sternoclavicular dislocations due to limited proven success of closed reduction, and the potential for iatrogenic injuries associated with attempted closed reduction maneuvers [26–29]. The use of Kirschner wires for joint transfixation is strongly discouraged due to the risk of pin migration with penetration into the great vessels in the upper mediastinum [37, 38].
✓ Locked plate fixation represents a feasible new treatment option for the acute management of traumatic posterior sternoclavicular dislocations, by restoring joint stability and allowing early functional rehabilitation . The success of this technique is confirmed by the present case report, in which the patient had an excellent and uneventful postoperative recovery after locked plate fixation.
✓ Preemptive hardware removal after locked plate fixation, specifically within less than 3 months postoperatively, should be strongly discouraged due to the risk of recurrent joint instability as a root cause of early symptomatic posttraumatic arthritis. In analogy to the established plate fixation across joints in other anatomic locations (e.g. pubic symphysis plating), the consideration should be made of maintaining implants for lifetime in asymptomatic patients.
✓ Multiple reconstruction techniques have been described for restoring stability of the sternoclavicular joint in cases of posttraumatic arthritis related to chronic ligamentous instability. The resection of the medial clavicle alone is associated with poor long-term outcomes and therefore discouraged in cases with residual ligamentous instability [40–42].
✓ The surgical technique described herein consists of anterior ligamentous complex reconstruction by tendon tissue woven in a figure-of-eight intraarticular interposition technique. This is performed in conjunction with partial resection of the medial clavicular head proximal to the insertion of the costoclavicular ligament. This technique appears to represent the treatment modality of choice for addressing chronic joint instability in conjunction with posttraumatic arthritis, based on the results of the present case report and the current peer-reviewed literature [42, 43].
Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this article.
The patient agreed with publication of this case report, including the publication of medical data, radiological imaging, and intraoperative pictures. The authors acknowledge Judy Powell (medical illustrator, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, CA) for contributing the graphic artwork in Figures 1 & 2.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.
- Rodrigues H: Case of dislocation, inwards, of the internal extremity of the clavicle. Lancet. 1843, 1: 309-310.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Gunther WA: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint; report of a case. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1949, 31: 878-Google Scholar
- Ferry A, Rock R, Masterson J: Retrosternal disclocation of the clavicle. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1957, 39: 905-910.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Nettles JL, Linscheid RL: Sternoclavicular dislocations. J Trauma. 1968, 8: 158-164. 10.1097/00005373-196803000-00004.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cope R, Riddervold HO: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint: report of two cases, with emphasis on radiologic management and early diagnosis. Skelet Radiol. 1988, 17: 247-250. 10.1007/BF00401805.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Rajaratnam S, Kerins M, Apthorp L: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint: a case report and review of the clinical anatomy of the region. Clin Anat. 2002, 15: 108-111. 10.1002/ca.1104.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Asplund C, Pollard ME: Posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation in a wrestler. Mil Med. 2004, 169: 134-136.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kuzak N, Ishkanian A, Abu-Laban RB: Posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation: case report and discussion. CJEM. 2006, 8: 355-357.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ono K, Inagawa H, Kiyota K, Terada T, Suzuki S, Maekawa K: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint with obstruction of the innominate vein: case report. J Trauma. 1998, 44: 381-383. 10.1097/00005373-199802000-00027.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gardner MA, Bidstrup BP: Intrathoracic great vessel injury resulting from blunt chest trauma associated with posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint. Aust N Z J Surg. 1983, 53: 427-430.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sykes JA, Ezetendu C, Sivitz A, Lee J, Desai H, Norton K, Daly RA, Kalyanaraman M: Posterior dislocation of sternoclavicular joint encroaching on ipsilateral vessels in 2 pediatric patients. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2011, 27: 327-330. 10.1097/PEC.0b013e318217b58f.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jougon JB, Lepront DJ, Dromer CE: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint leading to mediastinal compression. Ann Thorac Surg. 1996, 61: 711-713. 10.1016/0003-4975(95)00745-8.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sahin MS, Ergun T, Cakmak G, Akyuz M: Posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation with first rib fracture and ipsilateral vocal cord palsy. J Emerg Med. 2012, 42: e121-e123. 10.1016/j.jemermed.2010.06.026.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rayan GM: Compression brachial plexopathy caused by chronic posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint. J Okla State Med Assoc. 1994, 87: 7-9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Thomas DP, Davies A, Hoddinott HC: Posterior sternoclavicular dislocations - a diagnosis easily missed. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1999, 81: 201-204.PubMed CentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kiroff GK, McClure DN, Skelley JW: Delayed diagnosis of posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation. Med J Aust. 1996, 164 (4): 242-243.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jacob M, Snashall J, Dorfman A, Shesser R: X-ray-negative posterior sternoclavicular dislocation after minor trauma. Am J Emerg Med. 2013, 31: 260-e263–265View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Williams CC: Posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation. Phys Sportsmed. 1999, 27: 105-113.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Doss A, Lang IM, Roberts I, Bell MJ, Smith TW: Posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation in children - role of spiral computed tomography. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2005, 21: 325-326. 10.1097/01.pec.0000159068.17197.8e.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Groh GI, Wirth MA: Management of traumatic sternoclavicular joint injuries. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2011, 19: 1-7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Glass ER, Thompson JD, Cole PA, Gause TM, Altman GT: Treatment of sternoclavicular joint dislocations: a systematic review of 251 dislocations in 24 case series. J Trauma. 2011, 70: 1294-1298. 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182092c7b.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Groh GI, Wirth MA, Rockwood CA: Treatment of traumatic posterior sternoclavicular dislocations. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2011, 20: 20-10.1016/j.jse.2010.11.028.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Yeh GL, Williams GR: Conservative management of sternoclavicular injuries. Orthop Clin North Am. 2000, 31: 189-203. 10.1016/S0030-5898(05)70140-1.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Laffosse JM, Espie A, Bonnevialle N, Mansat P, Tricoire JL, Bonnevialle P, Chiron P, Puget J: Posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint and epiphyseal disruption of the medial clavicle with posterior displacement in sports participants. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2010, 92: 103-109.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Worman LW, Leagus C: Intrathoracic injury following retrosternal dislocation of the clavicle. J Trauma. 1967, 7: 416-423. 10.1097/00005373-196705000-00006.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Eskola A: Sternoclavicular dislocation. A plea for open treatment. Acta Orthop Scand. 1986, 57: 227-228. 10.3109/17453678608994382.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Barth E, Hagen R: Surgical treatment of dislocations of the sternoclavicular joint. Acta Orthop Scand. 1983, 54: 746-753. 10.3109/17453678308996623.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brinker MR, Bartz RL, Reardon PR, Reardon MJ: A method for open reduction and internal fixation of the unstable posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation. J Orthop Trauma. 1997, 11: 378-381. 10.1097/00005131-199707000-00016.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Wettstein M, Borens O, Garofalo R, Kombot C, Chevalley F, Mouhsine E: Anterior subluxation after reduction of a posterior traumatic sterno-clavicular dislocation: a case report and a review of the literature. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2004, 12: 453-456.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Burrows HJ: Tenodesis of subclavius in the treatment of recurrent dislocation of the sterno-clavicular joint. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1951, 33: 240-243.Google Scholar
- Shuler FD, Pappas N: Treatment of posterior sternoclavicular dislocation with locking plate osteosynthesis. Orthopedics. 2008, 31: 273-View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Franck WM, Jannasch O, Siassi M, Hennig FF: Balser plate stabilization: an alternate therapy for traumatic sternoclavicular instability. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2003, 12: 276-281. 10.1016/S1058-2746(02)86802-1.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Janson JT, Rossouw GJ: A new technique for repair of a dislocated sternoclavicular joint using a sternal tension cable system. Ann Thorac Surg. 2013, 95: e53-e55. 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.10.047.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Quayle JM, Arnander MW, Pennington RG, Rosell LP: Artificial ligament reconstruction of sternoclavicular joint instability: Report of a novel surgical technique with early results. Tech Hand Up Extrem Surg. 2013, [Nov 21; Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
- Aure A, Hetland KR, Rokkum M: Chronic posterior sternoclavicular dislocation. J Orthop Trauma. 2012, 26: e33-e35. 10.1097/BOT.0b013e318214e867.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jesacher M, Singer G, Hollwarth ME, Eberl R: Traumatic posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint. A case report of joint stabilization with gracilis tendon graft. Unfallchirurg. 2012, 115: 165-168. 10.1007/s00113-011-1955-4.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Venissac N, Alifano M, Dahan M, Mouroux J: Intrathoracic migration of Kirschner pins. Ann Thorac Surg. 2000, 69 (6): 1953-1955. 10.1016/S0003-4975(00)01198-X.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bensafi H, Laffosse JM, Taam SA, Molinier F, Chaminade B, Puget J: Tamponade following sternoclavicular dislocation surgical fixation. Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2010, 96: 314-318. 10.1016/j.otsr.2009.12.008.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Meis RC, Love RB, Keene JS, Orwin JF: Operative treatment of the painful sternoclavicular joint: a new technique using interpositional arthroplasty. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2006, 15: 60-66. 10.1016/j.jse.2005.04.005.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Acus RW, Bell RH, Fisher DL: Proximal clavicle excision: an analysis of results. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1995, 4: 182-187. 10.1016/S1058-2746(05)80049-7.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Eskola A, Vainionpää S, Vastamäki M, Slätis P, Rokkanen P: Operation for old sternoclavicular dislocation. Results in 12 cases. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1989, 71: 63-65.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Martetschläger F, Warth RJ, Millett PJ: Instability and Degenerative Arthritis of the Sternoclavicular Joint: A Current Concepts Review. Am J Sports Med. 2013, [Aug 16; Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
- Thut D, Hergan D, Dukas A, Day M, Sherman OH: Sternoclavicular joint reconstruction - a systematic review. Bull NYU Hosp Jt Dis. 2011, 69: 128-135.PubMedGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.