Interventions for treating proximal humeral fractures in adults.

Helen Handoll, Benjamin J. Ollivere, Katie E. Rollins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Fractures of the proximal humerus are common injuries. The management, including surgical intervention, of these fractures varies widely. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2001 and last updated in 2010. To review the evidence supporting the various treatment and rehabilitation interventions for proximal humeral fractures. We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE and other databases, and bibliographies of trial reports. The full search ended in January 2012. All randomised controlled trials pertinent to the management of proximal humeral fractures in adults were selected. Two people performed independent study selection, risk of bias assessment and data extraction. Only limited meta-analysis was performed. Twenty-three small randomised trials with a total of 1238 participants were included. Bias in these trials could not be ruled out. Additionally there is a need for caution in interpreting the results of these small trials, which generally do not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that any non-statistically significant finding is 'evidence of no effect'.Eight trials evaluated conservative treatment. One trial found an arm sling was generally more comfortable than a less commonly used body bandage. There was some evidence that 'immediate' physiotherapy compared with that delayed until after three weeks of immobilisation resulted in less pain and potentially better recovery in people with undisplaced or other stable fractures. Similarly, there was evidence that mobilisation at one week instead of three weeks alleviated short term pain without compromising long term outcome. Two trials provided some evidence that unsupervised patients could generally achieve a satisfactory outcome when given sufficient instruction for an adequate self-directed exercise programme.Six heterogeneous trials, involving a total of 270 participants with displaced and/or complex fractures, compared surgical versus conservative treatment. Pooled results of patient-reported functional scores at one year from three trials (153 participants) showed no statistically significant difference between the two groups (standardised mean difference -0.10, 95% CI -0.42 to 0.22; negative results favour surgery). Quality of life based on the EuroQol results scores from three trials (153 participants) showed non-statistically significant differences between the two groups at three time points up to 12 months. However, the pooled EuroQol results at two years (101 participants) from two trials run concurrently from the same centre were significantly in favour of the surgical group. There was no significant difference between the two groups in mortality (8/98 versus 5/98; RR 1.55, 95% CI 0.55 to 4.36; 4 trials). Significantly more surgical group patients had additional or secondary surgery (18/112 versus 5/111; RR 3.36, 95% CI 1.33 to 8.49; 5 trials).

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


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