Locked nailing of spiral humeral fractures with or without radial nerve entrapment

Jinn Lin
Clinical Orthopaedics and related Research 2002, (403): 213-20
The experience of locked nailing of spiral humeral fractures and the perioperative conditions of the radial nerve are reported. The nerve is at risk of entrapment after such a fracture, and severe injury may occur during closed nailing. Among 162 humeral fractures treated by locked nailing, there were 21 spiral fractures: 18 acute fractures, and three delayed unions. The distribution of the fractures was two at the middle and 19 at the distal (1/3). Twelve patients had preoperative radial nerve palsy. All fractures excluding one middle fracture were retrograde nailed, and all patients had radial nerve exploration. Thirteen fractures were locked statically, seven were locked distally and had cerclage wiring, and one was locked distally only. Fisher's exact tests showed that the risk of radial nerve entrapment significantly increased in fractures with varus angulation or resulting from high-energy trauma. All the patients achieved fracture union and regained satisfactory joint functions. The author suggests that in external rotational spiral humeral fractures, radial nerve exploration should be done if nerve entrapment is highly suspected, irrespective of the fracture location or nerve palsy. Locked nailing with transfixing screws or cerclage wire could be a reliable treatment method for these fractures.

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