Operative versus nonoperative treatment in complex proximal humeral fractures

Orthopedics. 2014 May;37(5):e410-9. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20140430-50.


This updated meta-analysis investigated whether operative treatment is superior to nonoperative treatment in complex proximal humeral fractures. The authors searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PubMed, and EMBASE. Randomized controlled trials that evaluated operative vs nonoperative treatment for exclusively 3- or 4-part proximal humeral fractures were considered. Six studies with a total of 287 patients who had proximal humeral fractures were included. According to the meta-analysis, no statistically significant differences were found between operative and nonoperative treatment in Constant-Murley shoulder scores (Constant scores); Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand scores; total complication events; mortality; infection; nonunion; avascular necrosis; osteoarthritis; redisplacement of fractures; or dislocation or resorption of tuberosity. For health-related quality of life, EuroQol-5D (EQ-5D) favored operative treatment, but 15D scores showed no significant difference. Compared with nonoperative treatment, open reduction and internal fixation required significantly more additional surgeries (risk ratio, 6.50; 95% confidence interval, 1.54-27.50; P=.01), and more penetrations into joint space occurred (risk ratio, 9.56; 95% confidence interval, 2.27-40.13; P=.002). The limited evidence suggests that no convincing findings support the use of either open reduction and internal fixation or hemiarthroplasty for the treatment of complex proximal humeral fractures. The findings of the current study should be interpreted cautiously because of the modest sample size and the short follow-up period.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Shoulder Fractures / therapy*