A pair controlled study was conducted to compare biomechanical properties of antegrade and retrograde nailing of humeral fractures. First, six paired fresh anatomic specimen humeri were used to compare the properties of humeri fractured at the middle to distal diaphyses junction that were nailed from the retrograde approach with the Humeral Locked nail with those of contralateral intact humeri. An 18 additional pairs were divided into three equal groups by distal, proximal, or middiaphysis location of a standardized 5-mm bone defect to simulate unstable fractures. The retrograde and antegrade nailings were performed in each pair in a random manner. Nail and bone constructs were tested for bending stiffness by nondestructive three-point bending and for torsional stiffness by destructive torsional tests. Compared with intact humeri, fractured humeri fixed with nails had 28.6% posteroanterior and 31.4% mediolateral bending stiffness, 22.5% torsional stiffness, and 43.3% failure torque. For distal fractures, retrograde nailing showed significantly more initial stability and higher bending and torsional stiffness; for proximal fractures, antegrade nailing showed similar properties. For middle to distal diaphyses junction fractures, retrograde and antegrade nailing were indistinguishable. The defect created as an entry portal for retrograde nailing reduced the bone strength only 11.1%. These results suggest that retrograde nailing, which is less detrimental to shoulder function than is antegrade nailing, is an acceptable alternative treatment for humeral shaft fractures. In addition, nailing from the short to the long bone segments can improve mechanical properties of the fixation construct because of better nail and bone interface purchase.
From Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
**Department of Orthopedic Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.