[Retrograde locked nailing of humeral shaft fractures: a prospective study of 58 cases]

T Apard, J-F Lahogue, S Prové, L Hubert, A Talha, P Cronier, P Massin
Revue de Chirurgie Orthopédique et Réparatrice de L'appareil Moteur 2006, 92 (1): 19-26

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: Appropriate treatment for humeral shaft fractures remains a debated issue. Among the classical osteosynthesis techniques proposed, closed nailing was adapted to the humerus rather late, using the anterograde method. Use of retrograde nailing, which spares the rotator cuff, is more recent. The purpose of this study was to report outcome in 58 humeral shaft fractures in adults treated using the universal humeral nail between January 2000 and December 2003.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: This work was limited to recent shaft fractures in adults with non-pathological bones. The fractures included were all situated between the insertion of the pectoralis major and a point situated 2 cm above the apex of the olecraneum fossa. The series included 58 patients with 58 humeral shaft fractures. All fractures were closed except four (Gustilo type I and II). Two patients presented preoperative radial paralysis which was not considered to be a contraindication for retrograde locking nailing. The paralysis recovered in both patients, after neurolysis performed during the nailing procedure in one. Osteosynthesis was performed without opening the fracture focus under fluoroscopic control using a static locking nail inserted retrograde in patients in the supine position.

RESULTS: There were two early deaths unrelated to the method. Healing was obtained in the surviving patients within fifteen weeks on average. Bone healing was primary in 53 patients and after secondary compression in three. At last follow-up, shoulder motion was normal in 88% of patients and elbow motion in 91%. The Rommens functional score was good in 84%. Complications included three cases of spontaneously regressive postoperative radial paralysis, three cases of reflex dystrophy including two which regressed, and two cases of humeral palette fracture requiring surgical osteosynthesis. The proximal screws were removed in six patients because of pain or migration. To date, implants have been removed in three patients without problem. There were no infections.

CONCLUSION: Retrograde insertion of this nail facilitates treatment of humeral shaft fractures by allowing immediate joint motion and the advantages of closed reduction: no infection, no late bone healing requiring conversion to another method of fixation. The residual technical problems concern proximal nailing and nail introduction.

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