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.
Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all such OrthoBuzz specialty-update summaries.
This month, Matthew R. Schmitz, MD, JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media, selected the most clinically compelling findings from the >40 studies summarized in the October 21, 2020 “What’s New in Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.
Rotator Cuff Repair
–A prospective randomized study compared operative and nonoperative treatment of small and medium-sized chronic full-thickness rotator cuff tears. At 10 years, the outcomes of primary repair were superior to those of nonoperative treatment, but both groups improved significantly over time.
Anterior Shoulder Instability
–A randomized trial compared arthroscopic Bankart repair to arthroscopic washout in the treatment of a first-time anterior dislocation. Bankart repair was associated with lower recurrence rates, fewer revisions, and better maintenance of functional outcomes.
–A prospective study evaluated the amount of glenoid bone loss associated with a single instability event in young athletes (average age of 20 years).1 A first-time dislocation was associated with a 6.8% bone loss. In the setting of recurrent instability, total bone loss averaged 10.2% at the time of enrollment and 22.8% after a subsequent instability event.
Proximal Humeral Fractures in the Elderly
–A randomized controlled trial compared locking-plate fixation with reverse total shoulder arthroplasty in treating intra-articular displaced proximal humeral fractures in patients 65 to 85 years of age. At 2 years, Constant-Murley scores were significantly better in the reverse total shoulder arthroplasty group.
“Little League” Elbow
–A prospective MRI-based study of Little League baseball players aged 12 to 15 years2 found that 58% of the players had abnormal upper-extremity MRI findings, and that in 80% of those players, the MRI findings worsened with continued baseball play. The authors suggest that surgeons discourage year-round play in young baseball players.
- Dickens JF, Slaven SE, Cameron KL, Pickett AM, Posner M, Campbell SE, Owens BD. Prospective evaluation of glenoid bone loss after first-time and recurrent anterior glenohumeral instability events. Am J Sports Med.2019 Apr;47(5):1082-9.
- Holt JB, Pedowitz JM, Stearns PH, Bastrom TP, Dennis MM, Dwek JR, Pennock AT. Progressive elbow magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities in Little League baseball players are common: a 3-year longitudinal evaluation. Am J Sports Med.2020 Feb;48(2):466-72. Epub 2019 Dec 4.
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
Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, Chad A. Krueger, MD, JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 25 noteworthy studies summarized in the July 3, 2019 “What’s New in Orthopaedic Trauma” article.
Proximal Humeral Fractures in the Elderly
–A recent meta-analysis1 analyzing data from >1,700 patients older than 65 who experienced a proximal humeral fracture found no difference in Constant-Murley scores at 1 year between those treated operatively (most with ORIF using a locking plate) and those treated nonoperatively. There was also no between-group difference with respect to reoperation rates among a subgroup of patients from the 7 randomized trials examined in the meta-analysis.
–A study using MRI to evaluate soft-tissue injuries in 17 cases of “simple elbow dislocation”2 found that the most common soft-tissue injury was a complete tear of the anterior capsule (71% of cases), followed by complete medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears (59%) and lateral collateral ligament tears (53%). These findings challenge previous theories positing that elbow instability starts laterally, with the MCL being the last structure to be injured.
Pertrochanteric Hip Fractures
–A trial randomized 220 patients with a pertrochanteric fracture to receive either a short or long cephalomedullary nail.3 There were no significant differences between the 2 groups at 3 months postsurgery in terms of Harris hip and SF-36 scores, but patients treated with the short nail had significantly shorter operative times, less blood loss, and shorter hospital stays. The incidence of peri-implant fractures between the 2 devices was similar.
Ankle Syndesmosis Injuries
–A randomized trial involving 97 patients with syndesmosis injuries compared functional and radiographic outcomes between those treated with a single syndesmotic screw and those treated with suture-button fixation. At 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after surgery, patients in the suture-button group had better AOFAS scores than those in the screw group. CT scans at 2 years revealed a significantly higher tibiofibular distance among the screw group, an increase in malreduction that was noted only after screw removal. That finding could argue against early routine syndesmotic screw removal.
–A randomized trial among 470 patients4 facing elective removal of hardware used to treat a below-the-knee fracture compared the effect of intravenous cefazolin versus saline solution in preventing surgical site infections (SSIs). The SSI rate was surprisingly high in both groups (13.2% in the cefazolin group and 14.9% in the saline-solution group), with no statistically significant between-group differences. The authors recommend caution in interpreting these results, noting that there may have been SSI-diagnosis errors and that local factors not applicable to other settings or regions may have contributed to the high SSI rates.
- Beks RB, Ochen Y, Frima H, Smeeing DPJ, van der Meijden O, Timmers TK, van der Velde D, van Heijl M, Leenen LPH,Groenwold RHH, Houwert RM. Operative versus nonoperative treatment of proximal humeral fractures: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and comparison of observational studies and randomized controlled trials. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.2018 Aug;27(8):1526-34. Epub 2018 May 4.
- Luokkala T, Temperley D, Basu S, Karjalainen TV, Watts AC. Analysis of magnetic resonance imaging-confirmed soft tissue injury pattern in simple elbow dislocations. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.2019 Feb;28(2):341-8. Epub 2018 Nov 8.
- Shannon S, Yuan B, Cross W, Barlow J, Torchia M, Sems A. Short versus long cephalomedullary nailing of pertrochanteric hip fractures: a randomized prospective study. Read at the Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association; 2018 Oct 17-20; Orlando, FL. Paper no. 68.
- Backes M, Dingemans SA, Dijkgraaf MGW, van den Berg HR, van Dijkman B, Hoogendoorn JM, Joosse P, Ritchie ED,Roerdink WH, Schots JPM, Sosef NL, Spijkerman IJB, Twigt BA, van der Veen AH, van Veen RN, Vermeulen J, Vos DI,Winkelhagen J, Goslings JC, Schepers T; WIFI Collaboration Group. Effect of antibiotic prophylaxis on surgical site infections following removal of orthopedic implants used for treatment of foot, ankle, and lower leg fractures: a randomized clinical trial. 2017 Dec 26;318(24):2438-45.
Under one name or another, The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery has published quality orthopaedic content spanning three centuries. In 1919, our publication was called the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, and the first volume of that journal was Volume 1 of what we know today as JBJS.
Thus, the 24 issues we turn out in 2018 will constitute our 100th volume. To help celebrate this milestone, throughout the year we will be spotlighting 100 of the most influential JBJS articles on OrthoBuzz, making the original content openly accessible for a limited time.
Unlike the scientific rigor of Journal content, the selection of this list was not entirely scientific. About half we picked from “JBJS Classics,” which were chosen previously by current and past JBJS Editors-in-Chief and Deputy Editors. We also selected JBJS articles that have been cited more than 1,000 times in other publications, according to Google Scholar search results. Finally, we considered “activity” on the Web of Science and The Journal’s websites.
We hope you enjoy and benefit from reading these groundbreaking articles from JBJS, as we mark our 100th volume. Here are two more:
Displaced Proximal Humeral Fractures: Classification and Evaluation
C Neer: JBJS, 1970 September; 52 (6): 1077
Complex distal humeral fractures have long challenged orthopaedic surgeons and their patients. Often the first step in fracture-management decision-making is classification, and in this 1970 study, Dr. Neer proposed a 6-group classification based on the presence or absence of displacement of one or more of the four major proximal segments. Since then, this classification has been variably adapted by multiple authors, but its usefulness remains intact.
The Effect of Implants Loaded with Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells on the Healing of Canine Segmental Bone Defects
S F Bruder, K H Kraus, V M Goldberg, S Kadiyala: JBJS, 1998 July; 80 (7): 985
Research into mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to augment healing of tendons, chondral and bone defects, and other connective tissues has taken off since these authors used autologous MSCs to help heal 21-mm segmental femoral defects. Radiographic union occurred rapidly at the interface between host bone and porous ceramic cylinders loaded with MSCs, and a large collar of bone had formed around the cell-loaded implants after 16 weeks.
The incidence of proximal humerus fractures is increasing with the aging of the population worldwide and the associated rise in prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Anecdotally, the incidence of high-energy proximal humerus fractures in the nonelderly also seems to be on the rise. In cases of complex, comminuted fractures, interest in surgical management has increased due to favorable reported outcomes with locking-plate fixation and reverse shoulder arthroplasty.
Still, many questions remain about how best to manage these fractures in individual patients and by surgeons with varying levels of experience. Beyond the dilemma of operative versus nonoperative management lie many decisions about technical details if surgical treatment is selected.
On Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 8:00 pm EDT, the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery (JSES) and The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS) will host a complimentary one-hour webinar—co-moderated by JSES Editor-in-Chief Bill Mallon, MD and JBJS Deputy Editor Andy Green, MD—that will address some of these questions.
JSES co-author Mark Frankle, MD will discuss findings from a recently published decision analysis that found experienced shoulder surgeons agreeing on optimal treatment for these fractures only 64% of the time. Patients may have poorer range-of-motion outcomes in scenarios where uncertainty exists.
Brent Ponce, MD, co-author of a cadaveric study published in JBJS, explains how his research team concluded that medial comminution is a predictor of poor stability in proximal humerus fractures treated with locking plates, but that stability may be improved in such cases (and in non-comminuted fractures) when fixation includes the calcar.
After each author’s presentation, an additional shoulder-fracture expert will add clinical perspective to these important findings. Xavier Duralde, MD will shed additional light on Dr. Frankle’s paper, and Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo, MD will comment on Dr. Ponce’s paper. During the last 15 minutes of the webinar, a live Q&A session will provide the audience with the opportunity to question the panelists about the concepts and data presented.
Seats are limited, so Register Now.
As an end-of-year thank-you to the orthopaedic community, we’re offering limited-time full-text access to the five most-read JBJS Reviews articles during 2016.
The fact that several of these most-read articles were published prior to 2016 is testament to the durable utility of the orthopaedic information published in JBJS Reviews.
- Treatment of Proximal Humeral Fractures (2016)
- Arthroscopic Single-Row Versus Double-Row Repair for Full-Thickness Posterosuperior Rotator Cuff Tears
- Treatment of Proximal Humeral Fractures (2014)
- The Evaluation and Treatment of Pediatric Tarsal Coalitions
- Acute Distal Radioulnar Joint Instability in Adults
A substantial number of patients, old and young, who sustain a proximal humeral fracture are managed with Kirschner wires (K-wires). Surgeons are especially likely to opt for wires over other forms of fixation when they need to protect the repair of a concomitant neurovascular injury, or in cases in which the patient cannot tolerate a more invasive surgery.
However, there is a somewhat frequent and potentially lethal drawback to using wires about the shoulder girdle. This latest JBJS Case Connector “Watch” looks at several cases in which wires were adequately placed in the shoulder but subsequently moved to other parts of the body. It also identifies apparent risk factors for wire migration and provides some guidance for minimizing that risk. Finally, it encourages orthopaedists to seriously consider alternate fixation options, whenever feasible, to eliminate the risk of wire migration altogether.
Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, David Teague, MD, co-author of the July 7, 2016 Specialty Update on orthopaedic trauma, selected the eight most clinically compelling findings from among the 35 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
–The randomized PROFHER trial found that surgical treatment of acute displaced proximal humeral fractures (with either ORIF or hemiarthroplasty) yielded no difference in patient outcomes compared with nonsurgical sling treatment at time points up to 2 years. Surgery was also significantly more expensive.1
–A randomized trial of 461 patients with an acute dorsally displaced distal radial fracture found no difference at one year in primary or secondary outcomes between a group that received ORIF and a group that received Kirschner-wire fixation. K-wire fixation was also more cost-effective.2
–A retrospective study of 137 type-III open tibial fractures concluded that both antibiotic prophylaxis and definitive wound coverage should occur as soon as possible for severe open tibial fractures. Prehospital antibiotic administration should be considered when transport is expected to take longer than one hour. 3
–A randomized trial of 214 patients who received either supervised physical therapy or engaged in self-directed home exercise after six weeks of immobilization treatment for an ankle fracture found no difference in activity and quality-of-life outcomes at 1, 3, and 6 months.4
–A registry study examining the incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT)/pulmonary embolism (PE) after surgery for a fracture distal to the knee identified the following risk factors for a thromboembolic event: previous DVT or PE, oral contraceptive use, and obesity.
–A randomized controlled trial of 2,447 patients compared irrigation with normal saline solution at various pressures to castile soap irrigation. Saline was superior in terms of reoperation rates after 12 months but irrigation pressure did not influence the reoperation rate.5
–A retrospective cohort study involving 104 patients who required a fasciotomy found that hospital stays were shorter among patients who underwent delayed primary closure (DPC) or a split-thickness skin graft on the first post-fasciotomy surgery. The authors noted limited utility of repeat surgeries to achieve DPT if fasciotomy wounds were not closed primarily on the first return trip.6
–A prospective observational study of 376 trauma patients requiring orthopaedic surgery found that those with a BMI of >30 kg/m2 had an overall complication rate of 38% and had longer hospital stays, longer delays to definitive fixation, and higher infection rates than nonobese patients.7
- Rangan A, Handoll H, Brealey S, Jefferson L, Keding A, Martin BC, Goodchild L, Chuang LH, Hewitt C,Torgerson D; PROFHER Trial Collaborators. Surgical vs nonsurgical treatment of adults with displaced fractures of the proximal humerus: the PROFHER randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 Mar 10;313(10):1037-47.
- Costa ML, Achten J, Plant C, Parsons NR, Rangan A, Tubeuf S, Yu G, Lamb SEUK. UK DRAFFT: a randomised controlled trial of percutaneous fixation with Kirschner wires versus volar locking-plate fixation in the treatment of adult patients with a dorsally displaced fracture of the distal radius. Health Technol Assess.2015 Feb;19(17):1-124: v-vi
- Lack WD, Karunakar MA, Angerame MR, Seymour RB, Sims S, Kellam JF, Bosse MJ. Type III open tibia fractures: immediate antibiotic prophylaxis minimizes infection. J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Jan;29(1):1-6.
- Moseley AM, Beckenkamp PR, Haas M, Herbert RD, Lin CW; EXACT Team. Rehabilitation after immobilization for ankle fracture: the EXACT randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 Oct 6;314(13):1376-85.
- Bhandari M, Jeray KJ, Petrisor BA, Devereaux PJ, Heels-Ansdell D, Schemitsch EH, Anglen J, Della RoccaGJ, Jones C, Kreder H, Liew S, McKay P, Papp S, Sancheti P, Sprague S, Stone TB, Sun X, Tanner SL,Tornetta P 3rd., Tufescu T, Walter S, Guyatt GH; FLOW Investigators. A trial of wound irrigation in the initial management of open fracture wounds. N Engl J Med. 2015 Dec 31;373(27):2629-41. Epub 2015 Oct 8.
- Weaver MJ, Owen TM, Morgan JH, Harris MB. Delayed primary closure of fasciotomy incisions in the lower leg: do we need to change our strategy? J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Jul;29(7):308-11.
- Childs BR, Nahm NJ, Dolenc AJ, Vallier HA. Obesity is associated with more complications and longer hospital stays after orthopaedic trauma. J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Nov;29(11):504-9.
Proximal humeral fractures are the third most common occurring fracture in patients over the age of sixty-five years. These fractures are often difficult to accurately classify, and they can also be challenging to treat surgically.
On Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm EDT, a complimentary webinar, hosted by The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, will present findings from two recent JBJS studies that explore the classification and treatment of complex proximal humeral fractures.
Milton Little, MD will examine whether 3D CT imaging helps orthopaedic surgeons classify proximal humeral fractures, and Derek J. Cuff, MD will analyze findings from a study that compared reverse total shoulder arthroplasty with hemiarthroplasty for treating these fractures in elderly patients.
Moderated by JBJS Deputy Editor Andrew Green, MD, the webinar will also feature commentaries on the study findings from shoulder experts Michael J. Gardner, MD and J. Michael Wiater, MD. The last 15 minutes of the webinar will be devoted to a live Q&A session.