Outcome of locking compression plates in humeral shaft nonunions

Malhar N Kumar, V Pratap Ravindranath, Mr Ravishankar
Indian Journal of Orthopaedics 2013, 47 (2): 150-5

BACKGROUND: Nonunion of diaphyseal fractures of the humerus are frequently seen in clinical practice (incidence of up to 15% in certain studies) and osteosynthesis using dynamic compression plates, intra medullary nails and Ilizarov fixators have been reported previously. Locking compression plates (LCP) are useful in the presence of disuse osteoporosis, segmental bone loss and cortical defects that preclude strong fixation. We report a prospective followup study of the outcome of the use of LCP for humeral nonunion following failed internal fixation in which implants other than LCP had been used.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty four patients with nonunion of humeral shaft fractures following failed internal fixation were included in the study. The mean followup period was 3.4 years (range: 2.4 to 5.7 years) and the minimum followup period was 2 years. Mean age of the patients was 41.04 years (range: 24 to 57 years). All 24 patients underwent osteosynthesis using LCP and autologous bone grafting (cortico-cancellous iliac crest graft combined with or without fibular strut graft). Main outcome measurements included radiographic assessment of fracture union and pre and postoperative functional evaluation using the modified Constant and Murley scoring system.

RESULTS: 23 out of 24 fractures united following osteosynthesis. Average time to union was 16 weeks (range: 10 to 28 weeks). Complications included delayed union (n = 2), transient radial nerve palsy (n = 2) and persistent nonunion (n = 1). Functional evaluation using the Constant and Murley score showed excellent results in 11, good in 10, fair in two and poor outcome in one patient.

CONCLUSIONS: Locking compression plating and cancellous bone grafting is a reliable option for achieving union in humeral diaphyseal nonunion with failed previous internal fixation and results in good functional outcome in patients with higher physiological demands.

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