Nonoperative treatment of proximal humerus fractures: a systematic review.

Research paper by Jaicharan J JJ Iyengar, Zlatko Z Devcic, Robert C RC Sproul, Brian T BT Feeley

Indexed on: 10 Jun '11Published on: 10 Jun '11Published in: Journal of orthopaedic trauma


Proximal humerus fractures are common in the setting of osteopenia and osteoporosis and can often be treated nonoperatively. There are few studies that evaluate the long-term outcomes of nonoperative treatment of these fractures. We performed a systematic review of the literature to examine the results of nonoperative treatment of proximal humerus fractures.The PubMed search engine and EMBASE database were used. Inclusion criteria were: 1) proximal humerus fractures resulting from trauma; 2) age older than 18 years; 3) more than 15 patients in the study; 4) greater than 1 year follow-up; 5) at least one relevant functional outcome score; and 6) a quality outcome score of at least a 5 of 10 according to previously published scoring system.We identified 12 studies that included 650 patients with a mean age of 65.0 years (range, 51-75 years) and a mean follow-up of 45.7 months (range, 12-120 months). There were 317 one-part fractures, 165 two-part fractures, 137 three-part fractures, and 31 four-part fractures. The rate of radiographic union was 98% and the complication rate 13%. The average range of motion reported in five studies was 139° forward flexion, 48° external rotation, and 52° internal rotation. The average Constant score reported in six studies was 74 (range, 55-81). Varus malunion was the most common complication reported, whereas avascular necrosis was uncommon (13 cases).We conclude that our systematic review of the literature on the nonoperative treatment of proximal humerus fractures demonstrates high rates of radiographic healing, good functional outcomes, and a modest complication rate.