A series of 78 cases of fracture shaft humerus treated by closed interlocked IM nailing were studied, which included 66 fresh fractures, 2 nonunion’s, 16 pathological fractures and 10 delayed unions. The youngest patient was 18 years old, and oldest was 79 years old. Most of the patients were adults between the ages 20 and 40 years (66%). The commonest mode of injury was road traffic accidents (50%). The antegrade approach was used in all 78 cases, and all nails were inserted with reaming. Totally, 13 of the patients had associated injuries involving the axial and appendicular skeleton, other organs and viscera. One case had a superficial infection that healed with sterile dressing and antibiotics after culture and sensitivity. Twelve patients had a significant restriction of shoulder movements while 4% had elbow stiffness with no functional loss. The final functional outcome is good to excellent. Several reports have demonstrated that with newer implants and improved techniques, locked IM nailing can achieve a success rate as high as that of the other methods. In these studies, the incidence of nonunion is approximately 6%, the incidence of infection is 2%, and the incidence of radial nerve palsies is 3%. The nails are subjected to lower bending forces, making failure by fatigue less likely to occur. In our center, we routinely perform the locking in static mode. In this study, all the fractures were treated with statically locked IM nail. Sixty-nine out of 78 patients was united without any complication. Ten of our patients needed bone grafting. Five patients showed no radiological signs of union at 4th month. They were treated with bone grafting. One had comminution at fracture site; He was treated with bone graft. In our study, union rate is 88.46%, which is very close to the reported series. This result is comparable to the union rate achieved by McCormack et al. (89.48%), Cox et al. (87.9%), Crates and Whittle (94.5%), Robinson et al. and Hems and Bhullar reported nonunion rate of 23% and 29% respectively after Seidel's interlocking nailing. In our study four patients (5.12%) developed nonunion, which we attribute to distraction at the fracture site. We believe that the distraction at the fracture site may be prevented during antegrade nailing by pushing or thumping at elbow after proximal locking. Once the distraction and rotations are corrected by thumping distal locking should be done. In our study union occurred in 90–150 days with a mean of 110.68 days that is very close to other studies. In our study, we did nailing after reaming the canal. This is a routine protocol in our center. There is reported literature, which shows increased blood loss, increased operating time, increased risk of pulmonary embolism and adult respiratory distress syndrome after reamed interlocking nail. We have a reasonable policy to wait and stabilize the patient who has certain risk factors such as associated chest trauma etc. When the patient is stable and fit for surgery, we perform close reamed statically locked IM nail. The functional outcome of patients with humeral shaft fracture is probably the most important consideration when deciding on the best mode of treatment for a particular fracture pattern. Twelve (15.38%) of our patients had mild shoulder stiffness at final follow-up. Shoulder stiffness is a significant problem in antegrade nailing, which can be minimized if care is taken to prevent the proximal protrusion of the nail and repair the rotator cuff properly. However, we agree with Rommens et al. that retrograde nailing will preserve shoulder function. We have not seen radial nerve palsy during surgery. Moran recommend open technique while passing distal interlocking screw from the lateral aspect of the humerus to avoid injury to the radial nerve and posterior coetaneous nerve of forearm. We encountered no such problem as we locked the nail with distal interlocking screw from anterior to posterior direction. McCormack et al. reported 14.2% of his patients developing radial nerve palsy, mostly neuropraxia, with full recovery in the postoperative period. Hems and Bhullar reported 9.5% radial nerve palsy during manipulative reduction of distal third fractures and claimed full recovery in his patients. Garnavos had proposed the aiming to improve outcomes include the categorization of humeral nails in two distinct groups: “Fixed” and “bio,” avoidance of reaming for the antegrade technique and utilization of “semi-reaming” for the retrograde technique, guidelines for reducing complications, setting the best “timing” for nailing and criteria for selecting the most appropriate surgical technique. Heineman et al. conclude that the current literature continues to favor plates over IM nails in humeral shaft fractures in the reduction of complication rates. However, the precision of our estimate is markedly improved (confidence interval [CI] = 0.41–0.97 instead of CI = 0.30–0.91). We have to remark though that the significance is a bit less than it was in 2010 (P = 0.03 instead of P = 0.01). Regarding our secondary outcomes there still is no significant difference between nails and plates. Carroll et al. had stated that a relatively high incidence of radial nerve injury has been associated with surgical management of humeral shaft fractures. van Middendorp et al. stated that the nonoperative management of humeral midshaft fractures could be expected to have similar functional outcomes and patient satisfaction at 1-year, despite an early benefit to operative treatment. If no radiological evidence of fracture healing exists in nonoperatively treated patients during early follow-up, a switch to surgical treatment results in good functional outcomes and patient satisfaction. The results of the present study indicate that in the presence of proper indications, reamed antegrade IM interlocked nailing appears to be a method of choice for internal fixation of osteoporotic and pathologic fractures.
A potential limitation of our study was the absence of a control group treated by a different modality. Thus, we cannot actually determine if any other method of treatment would have led to different results. Nevertheless, our results are better than those of the previous studies in which other nails or plates have been used.
In conclusion, the IM fixation is a simple technique with minimal exposure and shorter operative time with less blood loss. The preservation of fracture hematoma, soft tissue and periosteum around the fracture that occurs with close nailing has been proposed for high rates of union and good results, with no risk of iatrogenic radial nerve palsy. Humeral nailing is associated with early return to function of the extremity, low infection rates and also very good pain relief in pathological fractures. It is an acceptable alternative for the treatment of acute humeral shaft fractures in multiple injured patients.
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Edited by: Xiu-Yuan Hao
Source of Support: Nil.
Conflict of Interest: None declared.