Management of humeral shaft fractures

J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2012 Jul;20(7):423-33. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-20-07-423.


Humeral shaft fractures account for approximately 3% of all fractures. Nonsurgical management of humeral shaft fractures with functional bracing gained popularity in the 1970s, and this method is arguably the standard of care for these fractures. Still, surgical management is indicated in certain situations, including polytraumatic injuries, open fractures, vascular injury, ipsilateral articular fractures, floating elbow injuries, and fractures that fail nonsurgical management. Surgical options include external fixation, open reduction and internal fixation, minimally invasive percutaneous osteosynthesis, and antegrade or retrograde intramedullary nailing. Each of these techniques has advantages and disadvantages, and the rate of fracture union may vary based on the technique used. A relatively high incidence of radial nerve injury has been associated with surgical management of humeral shaft fractures. However, good surgical outcomes can be achieved with proper patient selection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • External Fixators
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal*
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary
  • Fractures, Ununited / surgery
  • Humans
  • Humeral Fractures / complications
  • Humeral Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Humeral Fractures / surgery*
  • Patient Selection
  • Physical Examination
  • Radial Neuropathy / etiology
  • Radial Neuropathy / therapy
  • Radiography