Background: The treatment of unstable displaced proximal humeral fractures, especially in the elderly, remains controversial. The objective of the present prospective, multicenter, observational study was to evaluate the functional outcome and the complication rate after open reduction and internal fixation of proximal humeral fractures with use of a locking proximal humeral plate.
Methods: One hundred and eighty-seven patients (mean age, 62.9 ± 15.7 years) with an acute proximal humeral fracture were managed with open reduction and internal fixation with a locking proximal humeral plate. At the three-month, six-month, and one-year follow-up examinations, 165 (88%), 158 (84%), and 155 (83%) of the 187 patients were assessed with regard to pain, shoulder mobility, and strength. The Constant score was determined at each interval, and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score was determined for the injured and contralateral extremities at the time of the one-year follow-up.
Results: Between three months and one year, the mean range of motion and the mean Constant score for the injured shoulders improved substantially. Twelve months after surgery, the mean Constant score for the injured side was 70.6 ± 13.7 points, corresponding to 85.1% ± 14.0% of the score for the contralateral side. The mean DASH score at the time of the one-year follow-up was 15.2 ± 16.8 points. Sixty-two complications were encountered in fifty-two (34%) of 155 patients at the time of the one-year follow-up. Twenty-five complications (40%) were related to incorrect surgical technique and were present at the end of the operative procedure. The most common complication, noted in twenty-one (14%) of 155 patients, was intraoperative screw perforation of the humeral head. Twenty-nine patients (19%) had an unplanned second operation within twelve months after the fracture.
Conclusions: Surgical treatment of displaced proximal humeral fractures with use of the locking proximal humeral plate that was evaluated in the present study can lead to a good functional outcome provided that the correct surgical technique is used. Because many of the complications were related to incorrect surgical technique, it behooves the treating surgeon to perform the operation correctly to avoid iatrogenic errors.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.