Proximal humeral fractures tend to occur in a bimodal distribution, namely, in younger, primarily male patients and in older (>65 years of age), primarily female patients. In the latter population, such fractures are often related to low bone density, and we in the orthopaedic community now recognize the imperative to evaluate at-risk individuals through measures such as DXA scanning and laboratory assessments of bone health in order to institute appropriate monitoring and pharmacotherapy.
Regarding the treatment of these fractures, several large trials have demonstrated that, for select fracture patterns, nonsurgical care results in clinical and functional outcomes that are equal to or better than surgical care with open reduction and internal fixation or arthroplasty. The question for treating clinicians is: are there proximal humeral fracture patterns that have higher rates of complications (chiefly nonunion) following nonsurgical care?
In a retrospective study reported in JBJS, Goudie and Robinson evaluated the rate of nonunion among patients who were treated nonoperatively for a proximal humeral fracture at their regional trauma center in the UK. They also sought to develop and validate a prediction model to assess nonunion risk, measuring the effect of 19 patient demographic and radiographic variables on healing.
Overall, 231 (10.4%) of the 2,230 included patients experienced nonunion. Among those with valgus angulation of the humeral head (395 patients), the nonunion prevalence was <1%, and none of the other variables evaluated were associated with increased risk of nonunion in a multivariable analysis. However, among the 1,835 patients with neutral or varus angulation of the head, the prevalence of nonunion was 12.4%, and decreasing head-shaft angle, increasing head-shaft translation, and smoking were independently predictive of nonunion.
Important to note is the residual pain and diminished function that often accompanies nonunion. Still, the authors rightly point out that “surgery aimed solely at preventing nonunion exposes patients to the risk of other complications that are not encountered with nonoperative treatment.” But, based on these findings about fracture morphology, they conclude that “medically fit patients with translated and/or angulated fractures should be counseled about smoking cessation and considered for surgery to avoid the debilitating effects of subsequent nonunion.” Patients with these fracture characteristics deserve closer scrutiny in our efforts to provide the best treatment for proximal humeral fractures.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Click here for a JBJS Clinical Summary on proximal humeral fractures.
Orthopaedic care teams can play an active role in evaluating and optimizing their patients’ bone health to help prevent primary and secondary fragility fractures and to improve postsurgical outcomes. In just about any orthopaedic scenario, helping patients optimize their bone health is an imperative for the delivery of quality care.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 8 pm EDT, the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS) will host a complimentary one-hour webinar that will cover the basics of a bone-health assessment by orthopaedists.
- Christopher Shuhart, MD will discuss the fundamentals of bone-related laboratory workups and bone densitometry studies.
- Joe Lane, MD, FAOA will identify bone-health “red flags” in orthopaedic patients, including common nutritional deficiencies.
- Paul Anderson, MD, FAOA will cover recent advances in bone-density measurements.
Moderated by Douglas Lundy, MD, MBA, FAOA, orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Resurgens Orthopaedics, this webinar will include a 15-minute live Q&A session during which attendees can ask questions of the panelists.
Seats are limited so REGISTER NOW.
The statistics about osteoporosis and associated fragility fractures are sobering:
- One-quarter of adults living in the US currently have osteoporosis or low bone density.
- Twenty-four percent of people aged 50 and older who sustain a hip fracture will die within a year after the fracture.
- Patients who have had one fragility fracture have an 86% increased risk for a second fracture.
Amid these troubling data stands hope from an effective, team-based clinical response—the fracture liaison service (FLS). In the April 15, 2015 edition of JBJS, Miller et al . explain how an FLS works and the results it achieves.
The authors define the fracture liaison service as “a coordinated care model of multiple providers who help guide the patient through osteoporosis management after a fragility fracture to help prevent future fractures.” The three key players on the FLS team are a coordinator (usually an advanced-practice provider), a physician champion (whom the authors say should be an orthopaedic surgeon), and a “nurse navigator.” Miller et al. describe the roles these FLS core team members play (including patient care and education and communication with other clinical services and administrators), suggest ways to organizationally justify an FLS, and lay out a stepwise implementation roadmap.
The authors conclude that an FLS “is adaptable to any type of health-care system, improves patient outcomes, and decreases complications and readmissions related to secondary fractures.” And there’s an important fringe benefit: “The FLS can help improve performance on quality measures…and help health-care organizations during this transition from volume payment to quality payment,” they say.