numero rivista e pagine: HSR Proceedings in Intensive Care and Cardiovascular Anesthesia 2012; 4(1): 51-52
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Fallacious fracture of clavicle after cardiac surgery

Authors: A. Bansal*, D. Arora, Y. Mehta

Medanta Institute of Critical Care and Anaesthesiology, Medanta The Medicity, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Corresponding author: * Corresponding author:
Abhishek Bansal, MD
Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care
Medanta-The Medicity - Sector 38
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

E-mail: docabhishekb@yahoo.co.in

Artefacts are quite common in chest radiographs and may lead to unnecessary imaging and interventions, if not recognized timely. A 70 year old male with triple vessel coronary artery disease underwent coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) at our institute. Preoperative history was unremarkable. Procedure was uneventful with three grafts. Post procedure, the patient was shifted to intensive care unit. On duty resident noticed fracture left clavicle on postoperative chest radiograph which was not present earlier (Figure 1).



Figure 1

Postoperative chest radiograph showing fracture of left clavicle


Palpation of the site did not reveal any gap or crepitus. On repeating the chest radiograph, clavicle was found to be intact with no discontinuity of margins (Figure 2).



Figure 2

Postoperative chest radiograph showing normal left clavicle


On comparison of the two radiographs, the earlier was found to be a rotated film with improper centring and lateral tilt, which fallaciously gave the impression of fractured clavicle.

Musculoskeletal complications of upper limb are not uncommon complications of CABG. Stiller et al reported that approximately 30 per cent of patients developed musculoskeletal complications that interfered with their level of comfort and function 8-10 weeks following cardiac surgery [1]. Musculoskeletal and neurological dysfunction after CABG may be due to the mechanical demands like sternal retraction, dissection of the internal mammary artery, internal jugular venous cannulation, patient position and devascularisation of the sternum placed upon the patient during the surgical procedure [2, 3]. Vander Salm et al have demonstrated that median sternotomy can cause first rib fractures [4].

In our case too we initially thought of sternal retraction related complication but careful evaluation and repeat chest radiograph ruled out the possibility.

Subtle interpretation is crucial to distinguish between an abnormal chest radiograph needing urgent medical attention and an abnormal chest radiograph with normal post-operative changes. The opinion of experienced and trained radiologist is invaluable to the diagnostic care of the patient.



  1. Stiller K, McInnes M, Huff N, Hall B. Do exercises prevent musculoskeletal complications after cardiacsurgery? Physiotherapy Theory and Practice 1997; 13: 117-126.
  2. El-Ansary D. Musculoskeletal problems following CABG: A comparison between saphenous vein and internal mammary grafting. (Abstract) Proceedings of the 4th National Cardiothoracic Special Group Conference of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. Melbourne 1995; 26-26.
  3. Selvaratnam PJ, Matyas TA, Glasgow EF. Noninvasive discrimination of brachial plexus involvement in upper limb pain Spine 1994; 19: 26-33.
  4. Vander Salm TJ, Cerada JM, Cutler BS. Brachial plexus injury following median sternotomy (Part I) Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 1980; 80: 447-452.

Cite as: Bansal A, Arora D, Mehta Y. Fallacious fracture of clavicle after cardiac surgery. HSR Proceedings in Intensive Care and Cardiovascular Anesthesia 2012; 4(1): 51-52


Source of Support: Nil.


Conflict of interest: None declared.