The reverse shoulder prosthesis for primary and secondary treatment of proximal humeral fractures: a case report

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2008 Sep;128(9):973-8. doi: 10.1007/s00402-007-0519-0. Epub 2007 Dec 20.


Humeral head fractures are very common among elderly people, often requiring shoulder arthroplasty. One requirement for good function after shoulder arthroplasty is an intact or at least reparable rotator cuff. In patients with multifractured and or osteoporotic tuberosities, refixation leads to the potential risk of redislocation and resorption of the tuberosities or coexisting irreparable rotator cuff tears lead to a high failure rate after implantation of traditional fracture prosthesis, whereas the reverse shoulder arthroplasty may provide better outcome. Here we report of a 79-year-old woman, who fractured both humeral heads at different times. Her right side was treated with a fracture prosthesis, which had to be converted after 2 years to a reverse shoulder prosthesis. Because of coexisting irreversible rotator cuff tear accompanying the second humeral head fracture on her left side, this patient was primarily treated with a reverse shoulder prosthesis. During the most recent follow up, 33 months after reverse shoulder arthroplasty on the left side and 39 months on the right side, the age- and gender-adapted constant score was 88 compared to 59 on the right side. The primary or secondary implantation of the reverse shoulder prosthesis in proximal humeral fractures has to be planned carefully, since long-term results are still lacking and treatment options after failed reverse shoulder arthroplasty are few. Generally, primary implantation of traditional fracture prosthesis is indicated in most cases of humeral head fractures; but in carefully selected cases primary reverse shoulder arthroplasty may be superior and lead to better outcome. Therefore, future research should be conducted to find criteria where the reverse shoulder arthroplasty is indicated as first line treatment of proximal humeral head fractures in elderly patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Prosthesis*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Fractures / surgery*