The relevance of neutral arm positioning for true ap-view X-ray to provide true projection of the humeral head shaft angle

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2016 Feb;136(2):213-21. doi: 10.1007/s00402-015-2368-6. Epub 2015 Nov 28.


Introduction: Textbooks commonly recommend using the true anterior-posterior (ap)-view with the patient's arm in a sling and therefore in internal rotation (IR) for radiologic diagnostic assessment of the proximal humerus after trauma. However, IR or external rotation (ER) may affect the projection of the head shaft angle (HSA) and therefore bias the diagnostic conclusion significantly. We hypothesized that neutral rotation (NR) of the arm is mandatory for true ap-view to provide true projection of the HSA.

Materials and methods: A simplified geometrical model of the proximal humerus was used to examine the influence of different arm positions and angulations of the central ray in relation to the projection of the HSA.

Results: Both ER and IR misleadingly suggested an increased valgus angle. Simulating the true ap-view with the central ray in cranio-caudal direction, IR changed the projection of the HSA substantially.

Conclusion: In conclusion, standard fixation of the patient's arm in a shoulder sling in IR for true ap-view may result in an oblique projection, potentially leading to incorrect surgical implications. To prevent misdiagnosed valgus or varus angulation, NR of the arm should be obeyed when performing true ap-view X-ray. We, therefore, highly recommend to overcome the traditionally arm position, ensuring the true amount of dislocation to assure correct surgical implications and comparable follow-up examinations.

Keywords: Head shaft angle; Proximal humerus; True ap-view; Valgus; Varus; X-ray.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Humeral Head / diagnostic imaging*
  • Models, Biological
  • Orthotic Devices
  • Patient Positioning*
  • Radiography
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Fractures / diagnostic imaging