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Rigid internal fixation of fractures of the proximal humerus in older patients

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In 42 elderly patients, 33 women and nine men with a mean age of 72 years, we treated displaced fractures of the proximal humerus (34 three-part, 8 four-part) using a blade plate and a standard deltopectoral approach. Functional treatment was started immediately after surgery. We reviewed 41 patients at one year and 38 at final follow-up at 3.4 years (2.4 to 4.5).

At the final review, all the fractures had healed. The clinical results were graded as excellent in 13 patients, good in 17, fair in seven, and poor in one. The median Constant score was 73 ± 18. Avascular necrosis of the humeral head occurred in two patients (5%).

We conclude that rigid fixation of displaced fractures of the proximal humerus with a blade plate in the elderly patient provides sufficient primary stability to allow early functional treatment. The incidence of avascular necrosis and nonunion was low. Restoration of the anatomy and biomechanics may contribute to a good functional outcome when compared with alternative methods of fixation or conservative treatment. Regardless of the age of the patients, we advocate primary open reduction and rigid internal fixation of three- and four-part fractures of the proximal humerus.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr B. Hintermann.

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