Operative vs. Nonoperative Treatment of Isolated Humeral Shaft Fractures: A Prospective Cohort Study


The purpose was to compare plate and screw fixation (open reduction internal fixation [ORIF]) and functional bracing (FB) of isolated humeral shaft fractures with treatment and patient-based outcomes. We performed a prospective trial of ORIF v. FB at 12 centers. Surgeons counseled patients on treatment options and a patient centered decision was made. We enrolled 179 patients, of which 6-month data was analyzed for 102 (39 female; 63 male). Forty-five were treated with ORIF and 57 with FB. We found no difference in the disability of the arm, shoulder and hand (DASH) score, visual analogue score (VAS) or elbow range of motion (ROM) at 6 months. However, 11% of the FB group developed nonunion. Complications in the ORIF group included a 2% infection and nonunion rate and 13% iatrogenic radial nerve dysfunction (RND). ORIF can be expected to result in higher union rates with the inherent risks of infection and RND. Finally, at 6 months, both groups demonstrated higher DASH scores than population norms, indicating a lack of full recovery. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 30(2):067–072, 2021)

Key words: humeral shaft fractures, plate fixation, functional brace, nonunion, DASH score

SKU: JSOA-2021-30-2-FA1 Categories: , Tags: , , , ,

Lisa K. Cannada, MD1; Lauren Nelson, MD; Paul Tornetta, III, MD; Robert Hymes, MD; Clifford B. Jones, MD; William Obremskey, MD MPH; Eben Carroll, MD; Brian Mullis, MD; Michael Tucker, MD; David Teague, MD; Andrew Marcantonio, DO; Robert Ostrum, MD; Michael Del Core, MD1; Heidi Israel, PhD