JOURNAL ARTICLE

Outcome of humeral shaft fractures treated by functional cast brace

Jitendra Nath Pal, Prahas Biswas, Avik Roy, Sunit Hazra, Somnath Mahato
Indian Journal of Orthopaedics 2015, 49 (4): 408-17
26229161

BACKGROUND: Functional brace application for isolated humeral shaft fracture persistently yields good results. Nonunion though uncommon involves usually the proximal third shaft fractures. Instead of polyethylene bivalve functional brace four plaster sleeves wrapped and molded with little more proximal extension expected to prevent nonunion of proximal third fractures. Periodic compressibility of the cast is likely to yield a better result. This can be applied on the 1(st) day of the presentation as an outpatient basis. Comprehensive objective scoring system befitting for fracture humeral shaft is a need.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Sixty six (male = 40, female = 26) unilateral humeral shaft fractures of mean age 34.4 years (range 11-75 years) involving 38 left and 28 right hands were included in this study during April 2008 to December 2012. Fractures involved proximal (n = 18), mid (n = 35) and distal (n = 13) of humerus. Transverse, oblique, comminuted and spiral orientations in 18, 35 and 13 patients respectively. One had segmental fracture and three had a pathological fracture with cystic bone lesion. Mechanisms of injuries as identified in this study were road traffic accidents 57.6% (n = 38), fall 37.9% (n = 25). 12.1% (n = 8) had radial nerve palsy 7.6% (n = 5) had Type I open fracture. Four plaster strips of 12 layers and 5-7.5 cm broad depending on the girth of arm were prepared. Arm was then wrapped with single layer compressed cotton. Lateral and medial strips were applied and then after molding anterior and posterior strips were applied in such a way that permits full elbow range of motion and partial abduction of the shoulder. Care was taken to prevent adherence of one strip with other except in the proximal end. Limb was then put in loose collar and cuff sling intermittently allowing active motion of the elbow ROM and pendular movement of the shoulder. Weekly tightening of the cast by fresh layers of bandage over the existing cast brace continued.

RESULTS: The results were assessed using 100 point scoring system where union allotted 30 points and 60 points allotted for angulations (10), elbow motion (10), shoulder abduction (10), shortening (5), rotation (5), absence of infection (10), absence of nerve palsy during treatment (10). Remaining 10 points were allotted for five items with two points each. They were the absence of skin sore, absence of vascular problem, absence of reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), recovery of paralyzed nerve during injury and recovery of paralyzed nerve during treatment. Results were considered excellent with 90 and above, good with 80-89, fair with 70-79 and poor below 70 point. Results at 6 months were excellent in 43.94% (n = 29), good in 42.42% (n = 28), fair in 9.1% (n = 6), poor in 4.55% (n = 3). Union took place in 98.48% (n = 65) with an average of 10.3 weeks (range 6-16 weeks). 87.5% (n = 7) paralyzed radial nerve recovered. All wounds healed. Four patients had transient skin problem. One patient with mid shaft fracture had nonunion due to the muscle interposition.

CONCLUSION: Modified functional cast brace is one of the options in treatment for humeral shaft fractures as it can be applied on the 1(st) day of the presentation in most of the situations. Simple objective scoring system was useful particularly in uneducated patients.

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