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Locked-Nail Treatment of Humeral Surgical Neck Nonunions

Lin, Jinn MD, PhD; Hou, Sheng-Mou MD, PhD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: March 2003 - Volume 54 - Issue 3 - p 530-535
doi: 10.1097/01.TA.0000034588.37392.C2

Objective  The authors’ purpose was to report their experience with the use of locked nails in treating humeral surgical neck nonunions. Locked nailing has the advantages of minimal soft tissue trauma, automatic fracture reduction, and stable fracture fixation.

Methods  Excluding 3 patients with severe medical illness, a total of 15 consecutive patients with 15 nonunions were treated by humeral locked nailing and bone grafting. Delay from trauma to surgery averaged 13.8 months, and 10 patients had previous operations. The average age of patients was 55.1 years; average follow-up time was 22.4 months. There were two hypertrophic and 13 atrophic nonunions. The average preoperative Neer score for shoulder joints was 53.5. All but three cases had varus deformity, with an average angle of 32.3 degrees.

Results  Seven nonunions were nailed with 8-mm nails and eight with 7-mm nails. With a single operation, all but one patient achieved osseous union in an average of 5.4 months. This one patient, who had a Neer score of 72, refused further surgery. At follow-up, 13 of the 15 patients had excellent or good functional recovery of shoulder joints, with an average Neer score of 86.7. Four patients had residual varus angulation averaging 15.5 degrees. For patients with solid union, the average range of shoulder motion was 152.3 degrees in flexion and 146.4 degrees in abduction. No patients had significant limitation of elbow motion. Three patients had occasional shoulder pain and no patients had evident shoulder impingement.

Conclusion  For humeral surgical neck nonunions in which the head fragment still preserves the greater tuberosity, locked nailing with transfixing screws appeared to be a useful alternative, especially in fractures with osteoporosis, severe varus deformity, or severe soft tissue scarring.

From the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.

Submitted for publication November 11, 2001.

Accepted for publication March 4, 2002.

Address for reprints: Sheng-Mou Hou, MD, PhD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital, No. 7 Chung Shan S. Road, Taipei 100, Taiwan; email:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.