The Importance of Medial Support in Locked Plating of Proximal Humerus Fractures

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Objectives:The purpose of this study was to determine what factors influence the maintenance of fracture reduction after locked plating of proximal humerus fractures, and particularly the role of medial column support.Setting:University medical center.Intervention:Thirty-five patients who underwent locked plating for a proximal humerus fracture were followed up until healing. For the initial and final radiographs, 2 lines were drawn perpendicular to the shaft of the plate, one at the top of the plate and one at the top of the humeral head, and the distance between them was measured as an indicator of loss of reduction. Medial support was considered to be present if the medial cortex was anatomically reduced, if the proximal fragment was impacted laterally in the distal shaft fragment, or if an oblique locking screw was positioned inferomedially in the proximal humeral head fragment.Main Outcome Measurements:Multivariate linear regressions were performed to determine the effects that age, sex, fracture type, cement augmentation, and medial support had on loss of reduction.Results:The presence of medial support had a significant effect on the magnitude of subsequent reduction loss (P < 0.001). Age, sex, fracture type, or cement augmentation had no effect on maintenance of reduction. Eighteen patients were determined to have adequate mechanical medial support (+MS group), and the remaining 17 patients did not have medial support (-MS group). In the +MS group, the average loss of humeral head height was 1.2 mm, and 1 case of articular screw penetration occurred that required removal. In the −MS group (without an appropriately placed inferomedial oblique screw and either nonanatomic humeral head malreduction with lateral displacement of the shaft or medial comminution), loss of humeral height averaged 5.8 mm (P < 0.001). There were 5 cases in this group in which screw penetration of the articular surface occurred (P = 0.02), 2 of which required reoperation for removal. All fractures in both groups healed without delay, and none required revision to arthroplasty.Conclusions:Achieving mechanical support of the inferomedial region of the proximal humerus seems to be important for maintaining fracture reduction. Locked plates in general do not appear to be a panacea for these fractures and are unable to support the humeral head alone from a lateral tension-band position. However, there are several factors that are in the surgeon's control that may improve the mechanical environment. Achieving an anatomic or slightly impacted stable reduction, as well as meticulously placing a superiorly directed oblique locked screw in the inferomedial region of the proximal fragment, may achieve more stable medial column support and allow for better maintenance of reduction.

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