Armstrong gets 12 screws in collarbone

March 25, 2009 2:01:02 PM PDT
Lance Armstrong was recovering Wednesday from surgery on his broken collarbone. Surgeon Doug Elenz inserted a steel plate and 12 screws to stabilize the collarbone, which was broken in four pieces.

Rating the surgery on a scale of one to 10, from easiest to most difficult, Elenz called Armstrong's procedure an 8.

"This was a challenge. It was a hard case," Elenz said in a conference call with reporters.

Armstrong broke the collarbone Monday when he crashed during the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain. He flew home to Austin on Tuesday and went straight to visit Elenz.

The 37-year-old American cyclist has said he still hopes to ride in the Giro d'Italia, which begins May 9, and the Tour de France in July.

"I think the Giro is still very doable," the seven-time Tour de France champion said Tuesday night during a conference call with reporters. "This is definitely a setback, no doubt. It's the biggest setback I've ever had in my cycling career, so it's a new experience for me."

Although first thought to be a simple fracture, Elenz said X-rays and a CAT scan performed in Austin on Tuesday showed a more complex break.

The three-hour surgery to stabilize the bone required about a 5-inch incision and the steel plate measures about the same length, Elenz said. Assisting him was another orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cary Windler.

Although the bone may take eight to 12 weeks to fully mend, Armstrong will be back on the bike far sooner.

He must take a few days off before he can resume training on a stationary bike. Then doctors will monitor his arm strength, range of motion in his shoulder, as well as his pain, to decide what kind of training he can do.

"Lance is going to be a patient who is going to push the envelope," Elenz said. "This first week we're going to make Lance take it easy ... ask Lance not to do a whole lot."

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