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Know About Fracture of The Shaft of Humerus

by Soft2share.com

Amongst the long bones, fracture of the shaft of the humerus is less common. The impact of injury strikes more around the shoulder leading to dislocation or fracture of the upper end of humerus thereby sparing the shaft in many cases.


  1. Violence- Direct violence is the commonest cause producing transverse or comminuted fractures. Indirect injury after a fall on an outstretched hand will usually produce a spiral fracture. A twisting injury will lead to a similar lesion as above.
  2. Pathological fracture- The shaft of the humerus is a common site for malignant metastasis. This takes place mainly from the breast and lung. The fracture may be the earliest manifestation of a malignant condition at a distant place.


Fractures of the shaft mostly happen in the mid-third region. This may be of transverse, spiral, oblique or comminuted variety.


There is a pain, swelling, and deformity at the fracture site. Abnormal mobility can be observed. Radial nerve injury must be excluded by asking the patient to extend the fingers and wrist joints.

X-ray: The type of fracture and nature of displacement are observed from the x-ray.


Most shaft fractures unite satisfactorily. Development of non- union especially in the shaft of the humerus is a serious condition. This develops mainly following the distraction of the fractured segments. Excessive weight of plaster can interfere with the opposition of broken ends. Checkup x-ray at regular intervals must be taken to see if the union is satisfactory. Spiral and comminuted types of lesions usually do not provide any problem. A minor degree of angulation does not interfere with the process of union.

U- shaped plaster immobilization- “U” plaster is applied with the patient in sitting position. No anesthesia is required. About 10 c.m. (4”) wide and six layers of thick plaster slab is applied directly on the skin. This extends from under the axilla, medial surface of the arm, around the elbow, over the outer side of the arm, extending over the shoulder up to the acromioclavicular joint. Crepe bandage is applied around the “U” slab.

Triangular Bandage. This has the advantage that when firmly tied, it elevates the elbow and keeps the fractured ends compressed together.

After Care. Finger and wrist movements are advised. Immobilization is maintained for a period of 4-6 weeks.


Displaced fractures are seen in transverse and short oblique lesions.

Reduction: General anesthesia is not necessary. Infiltration of a local anesthetic solution at the site of fracture is sufficient but, in most cases, the reduction can be done without any anesthesia. The patient sits on the chair; the assistant firmly holds the upper part of the arm proximal to the fracture. The surgeon applies traction on the distal segment with both hands. Patient’s elbow joint is kept at 90⁰ flexed position. By manipulation, the segments are to press the elbow upward while the assistant process down over the shoulder. Resistance is felt when the segments are in contact. The rotational and angulatory deformity is corrected. “U” slab is applied along with cuff and collar sling.

After Care.

Check x-ray: Check x-ray is taken immediately, and a further x-ray is taken every week till a 3rd week. If any distraction is noted at the site of the fracture, this is corrected by pressing the elbow upwards by applying a firm bandage over the “U” slab. The angulatory deformity can be corrected similarly. Exercise of fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder is instituted from the beginning.


Reduction and immobilization can be done by continuous traction, but this can distract the fracture ends; therefore, this technique is not usually advocated.


Shoulder spica may be suitable in non- cooperative patents, especially in children or in some unstable fractures.


Internal fixation by the rush nail is advocated in unstable fractures. This method can be ideal in cases of failure to reduce the fracture by conservative means and in pathological fractures.


The common complications are radial nerve injury and non-union of the fracture which are discussed below.


Injury to the radial nerve in the spiral groove can take place producing wrist drop. In most cases the nerve is contused and not severed. Incomplete paralysis holds a better prognosis.


  • Conservative treatment: Cock- up splint with the wrist joint in hyperextension, electric muscle stimulation, physiotherapy is instituted. After a few weeks, if no improvement is observed, exploration of the nerve is done.
  • Muscle transplant: Transplantation of flexor muscles to extensors of the forearm is done in case of failure of nerve injury.


This condition can be preserved by proper management. In established cases, internal fixation with bone graft is performed. The limb is immobilized in a shoulder spica.

This article is edited by Siora Surgicals team for the knowledge purpose. Siora Surgicals Pvt. Ltd. is a top orthopaedic implant company in India and another country too. Our company manufactures high- quality orthopedic medical implants and instruments.

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