Two-part surgical neck fractures of the proximal part of the humerus: A biomechanical evaluation of two fixation techniques

Sara L. Edwards*, Nicole A. Wilson, Li-Qun Zhang, Steven Flores, Bradley R Merk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Successful internal fixation of fractures of the surgical neck of the humerus can be difficult to achieve because of osteopenia of the proximal aspect of the humerus. The purpose of this study was to compare the biomechanical stability of a proximal humeral intramedullary nail and a locking plate for the treatment of a comminuted two-part fracture of the surgical neck in a human cadaver model. Methods: Twenty-four cadaveric humeri were instrumented with use of either a titanium proximal humeral nail (PHN) or a 3.5-mm locking compression plate for the proximal part of the humerus (LCP-PH). The specimens were matched by bone mineral density and were separated into four experimental groups with six humeri in each: PHN bending, LCP-PH bending, PHN torsion, or LCP-PH torsion. Comminuted fractures of the surgical neck were simulated by excising a 10-mm wedge of bone. Bending specimens were cyclically loaded from 0 to 7.5 Nm of varus bending moment at the fracture site. Torsion specimens were cyclically loaded to ±2 Nm of axial torque. The mean and maximum displacement in bending, mean and maximum angular rotation in torsion, and stiffness of the bone-implant constructs were compared. Results: In bending, the LCP-PH group demonstrated significantly less mean displacement of the distal fragment than did the PHN group over 5000 cycles (p = 0.002). In torsion, the LCP-PH group demonstrated significantly less mean angular rotation than did the PHN group over 5000 cycles (p = 0.04). A significant number of specimens in the PHN group failed prior to reaching 5000 cycles (p = 0.04). The LCP-PH implant created a significantly stiffer bone-implant construct than did the PHN implant (p = 0.007). Conclusions: The LCP proximal humeral plate demonstrated superior biomechanical characteristics compared with the proximal humeral nail when tested cyclically in both cantilevered varus bending and torsion. The rate of early failure of the proximal humeral nail could reflect the high moment transmitted to the locking proximal screw-bone interface in this implant. Clinical Relevance: The high failure rate in torsion of the proximal humeral nail-bone construct is concerning, and, with relatively osteoporotic bone and early motion, the results could be poor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2258-2264
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series A
Volume88
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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