Operative Versus Nonoperative Treatment of Displaced Proximal Humeral Physeal Fractures: A Matched Cohort

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Abstract

Background:

Displaced proximal humeral physeal fractures (PHPF) are rare injuries. Because of the lack of comparative studies, treatment has historically been based on surgeon preference. The purpose of this study was to compare treatment outcomes among skeletally immature patients who underwent operative versus nonoperative treatment for Neer-Horwitz (NH) III or IV PHPF.

Methods:

Skeletally immature patients who underwent treatment for a displaced PHPF from 2003 to 2012 were identified. Eligible subjects were invited to complete a validated shoulder outcome instrument (QuickDASH) and a phone survey. A propensity score matching approach was utilized to match subjects who underwent operative treatment to subjects who underwent nonoperative treatment on the basis of age at injury and NH classification.

Results:

Seventy patients were identified with a NH III or IV PHPF, of whom 32 subjects completed the study. There was also no difference (P=0.5637) in the proportion of subjects who developed a less than desirable treatment outcome in operative group (57.14%, 4/7) as compared with the nonoperative group (42.86%, 3/7). There was also no difference (P=0.5637) in the proportion of subjects who developed a less than desirable treatment outcome in operative group (57.14%, 4/7) as compared with the nonoperative group. Differences in rate of return to preinjury level of activity (P>0.9999), or cosmetic appearance scores (P>0.999) were not significantly different. QuickDASH scores were 1.9 points (95% CI, 3.0-6.9; P=0.3699) higher overall in the nonoperative group as opposed to the operative group. A less than desirable treatment outcome was noted in 4/23 (17.4%) subjects who underwent nonoperative treatment. Subgroup analysis of the nonoperative cases showed that, for every 1 year increase in age at initial injury, the odds of less than desirable outcome increased by a factor of 3.81 (95% CI, 1.31-21.0).

Conclusions:

In a matched cohort of patients with proximal humerus physeal fractures, there was no difference in occurrence of complications, rate of return to activity, or cosmetic satisfaction. Functional outcomes were also nonsignificant, but tended to be higher among fractures that underwent nonoperative treatment. Among nonoperatively treated fractures, less than desirable outcomes were more common in older patients, particularly those older than 12 years of age.

Level of Evidence:

Level III—therapeutic.

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