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Percutaneous Pinning of Pediatric Proximal Humeral Fractures

Swarup, Ishaan MD1; Hughes, Michael S. MD1; Bram, Joshua T. BS1; Horn, B. David MD1; Ganley, Theodore J. MD1

JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques: October-December 2019 - Volume 9 - Issue 4 - p e33
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.ST.19.00002
Subspecialty Procedures

Background: Proximal humeral fractures are relatively common in pediatric patients. These injuries are usually treated nonoperatively in younger children or children with minimally displaced fractures. However, closed reduction or open reduction followed by percutaneous pinning is recommended for older children with displaced fractures. Percutaneous pinning has several advantages, but there are limited reports of a safe and reliable surgical technique in the literature.

Description: Patients are positioned in a modified beach-chair position to allow orthogonal imaging. The injured extremity is draped free from the remainder of the body. Closed reduction, which comprises a combination of traction, abduction, and rotation, is attempted. Internal or external rotation may be required, depending on the fracture line and deforming forces. If an anatomic closed reduction cannot be obtained, a block to reduction should be suspected and open reduction should be performed via a deltopectoral approach. Once the fracture is reduced, two 2.5-mm threaded Kirschner wires from the small external fixator set are used to percutaneously fix the fracture. Any small external fixator set can be used, and if not available, individual threaded wires of similar size can be used. Alternatively, Kirschner wires can be advanced to the fracture site prior to reduction and then advanced into the humeral epiphysis once the fracture is reduced. Care is taken to avoid the axillary nerve, which is reliably within 6 cm of the anterolateral aspect of the acromion, and wires are placed distal to this site. Once pin position has been confirmed radiographically, the construct is secured with pin-to-pin clamps to improve rigidity and further decrease the risk of pin migration. A soft dressing and shoulder immobilizer are placed postoperatively. Patients are followed with biweekly radiographs, and pins are removed in the outpatient office or under conscious sedation at 4 weeks. Leaving pins for a longer period may increase the risk of skin irritation and potentially infection.

Alternatives: Alternatives to closed reduction or open reduction and percutaneous pinning include nonoperative management and elastic intramedullary nailing. Nonoperative treatment is a reliable option for most patients. However, it is not suitable for older children with severely displaced fractures because of diminished remodeling potential. Elastic intramedullary nailing is a good option for distal fractures. However, it is not suitable for proximal fractures, and it has been associated with longer operative times and more blood loss than percutaneous pinning. It also requires a second procedure.

Rationale: This procedure allows for anatomic fixation of proximal humeral fractures and provides a rigid construct to maintain reduction. It is not technically challenging, requires limited postoperative immobilization, and decreases the risk of a second general anesthetic.

1Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Email address for I. Swarup:

Disclosure: The authors indicated that no external funding was received for any aspect of this work. The Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest forms are provided with the online version of the article (

Copyright © 2019 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated