Nonoperative management of proximal humerus fractures in the elderly used to be fairly common, but multiple studies have shown poor outcomes. Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with locked-plate constructs has shown some promise, but it has been fraught with complications. Most recently, reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (rTSA) has emerged as a possible surgical solution, but this is a complicated procedure, and questions have arisen about long-term outcomes. Compounding this conundrum are the varying degrees of severity of proximal humeral fractures.
In the March 18, 2020 issue of The Journal, Fraser et al. share 2-year results from a multicenter, single-blinded randomized trial that compared rTSA to ORIF for severely displaced proximal humeral fractures in patients 65 to 85 years of age. Included patients (n=124) had OTA/AO 11-B2 or 11-C2 fractures with >45° valgus or >30° varus in the anteroposterior view, or >50% displacement of the humeral head. Using the Constant shoulder score as the primary outcome measure, the authors demonstrated both a statistically significant and clinically meaningful difference favoring rTSA in this cohort.
The mean Constant score was 68.0 points for the rTSA group compared to 54.6 points for the ORIF group. The mean between-group difference, 13.4 points, was significant (p<0.001) and exceeded the minimal clinically important difference of 10 points. The Constant-score difference between ORIF and rTSA was most pronounced (18.7 points) in patients with C2 fractures, but there was no significant score difference in those with B2 fractures. Secondary outcomes (Oxford Shoulder Scores) showed a consistent trend of the rTSA group scoring higher than the ORIF group at 2 years.
Although this study indicates an advantage for rTSA, one must consider that only severely displaced fractures were investigated and that 2-year follow-up for joint arthroplasty is considered short term. In a Commentary about this article, Peter A. Cole, MD points out that “if there was a 25% revision rate for reverse TSA at 5 to 10 years, then the superior results would be reversed, and we would be reinventing another wheel in orthopaedics.”
Clearly, longer-term studies in this population are a necessity, and Fraser et al. say they plan to follow these patients in 5-year intervals.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Although the indications for anatomic and reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA) are different, better understanding of the rate of improvement with each type of surgery could help establish more realistic patient expectations for recovery—and help surgeons and physical therapists design different strategies for postoperative care. With those goals in mind, Simovitch et al. use prospectively collected data to compare, at a minimum 2-year follow-up, clinical and range-of-motion (ROM) outcomes among 505 anatomic TSA patients and 678 reverse TSA patients. The findings appear in in the November 1, 2017 issue of JBJS.
The authors tracked five clinical outcome scores (SST, UCLA Shoulder, ASES, Constant, and SPADI), along with 4 relevant ROM measures. In both groups, >95% of patients reported clinical improvement in all 5 clinical metrics by 6 months, and full improvement was noted by 24 months. Not surprisingly, the mean age of patients who underwent reverse TSA was >5 years older and their shoulder-function scores and ROM were generally worse than those of the anatomic TSA patients.
At the time of the latest follow-up, patients who underwent anatomic TSA fared significantly better than patients who underwent reverse TSA in 3 of the 5 clinical outcome metrics and in all 4 ROM measurements. On the other hand, those who had reverse TSAs had significantly larger improvements in the Constant score (which emphasizes strength more than the other 4 clinical metrics) and active forward flexion.
ROM-wise, at approximately 6 years after surgery, the authors noted a progressive decrease in the magnitude of improvement for abduction and forward flexion in both groups. According to Simovitch et al., the observed discrepancies between clinical and ROM outcomes at longer-term follow-up suggest that “subjective (e.g., patient-reported) assessments of outcome and function likely continue to be stable or improve despite range-of-motion worsening and, as such, may imply that patient expectations change with follow-up time.”
Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (RTSA) has yielded promising medium-term outcomes, but what about longer-term results? In the March 15, 2017 edition of The Journal, Bacle et al. look at patient outcomes, prosthetic survival, and complications after a mean follow up of 12.5 years.
The good-news finding from this study was that the overall prosthetic survival rate (using revision as the end point) was 93%, confirming the reliability of the Grammont-style prosthesis. Time, however, took its toll on other outcomes. For example, both mean and absolute Constant scores among the cohort decreased significantly compared with the scores at the medium-term follow up (a minimum of 2 years). The cumulative long-term complication rate was 29%, with 10 of the 47 complications occurring at a mean of 8.3 years. Seven of those 10 delayed complications were attributed to mechanical loosening.
The authors suggest that the deterioration of RTSA outcomes seen in this study “is probably related to patient aging coupled with bone erosion and/or deltoid impairment over time.” They conclude that long-term RTSA outcomes “may be impacted by both the etiology of the shoulder dysfunction and the time since implantation.”
For more peer-reviewed content related to RTSA from JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques, click on the following links:
- Patient-Matched Implementation for Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty
- Glenoid Bone-Grafting in Revision to a Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty: Surgical Technique
- Technique for Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty for Primary Glenohumeral Osteoarthritis with a Biconcave Glenoid