Proximal humeral fractures: what is semi-rigid? Biomechanical properties of semi-rigid implants, a biomechanical cadaver based evaluation

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2008 Feb;128(2):205-10. doi: 10.1007/s00402-007-0512-7. Epub 2007 Nov 27.


Introduction: Proximal humerus fractures remain challenging especially in the elderly. Biomechanical data put semi-rigid implants in favour of osteopenic or osteoporotic situation. Little surgical side damage is associated with a minimal invasive approach of these implants. The aim of this study was to evaluate the mechanical properties of three such implants.

Material and methods: Fresh frozen cadaver specimens were mounted as proposed by the distributors. Three different implants were used: LCP-PH (locking compression plate proximal humerus, Synthes, Austria), HB (humerus block, Synthes, Austria), and IMC (intramedullary claw, ITS, Austria). Subcapital fracture was simulated by resecting a 5 mm gap. All specimens were comparable in "B" (one), "M" (ineral) and "D" (ensity). Four load cases were tested: varus bending, medial shearing and axial torque. A cyclic test (1,000 cycles) was performed in the first load case (varus stress) for all three implants.

Results: The LCP-PH was the most rigid in all three load cases, always followed by the HB. The IMC was the most elastic device with almost immeasurable values in axial torque. In the cyclic setting, the load reduction of the HB followed by the LCP-PH was significantly better than that for the IMC.

Conclusion: The differences in stiffness are varying tremendously. The IMC is the implant with the lowest stiffness in all load cases and the highest load reduction. New "semi-rigids" claim good clinical performance, yet prospective clinical studies have to prove this. It is unlikely that the IMC can maintain fracture reduction in fracture situations of complex nature (no ligamentotaxis).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Prostheses and Implants*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Shoulder Fractures / surgery*