Proximal fractures of the humerus in patients older than 75 years of age: should we consider operative treatment?

de Kruijf M, Vroemen JP, de Leur K, van der Voort EA, Vos DI, Van der Laan L. 
Proximal fractures of the humerus in patients older than 75 years of age: should 
we consider operative treatment? J Orthop Traumatol. 2014 Jun;15(2):111-5.



Over 75 % of patients presenting with a proximal humerus fracture are 70 years or older. Very little is known about the outcome after operative treatment of these fractures in very old patients. This study was performed to gain more insight in safety and functional outcome of surgical treatment of proximal humerus fractures in the elderly.


In this observational study, we analyzed all operatively treated patients, aged 75 or older, with a proximal humerus fracture between January 2003 and December 2008 in our center. Patient selection was on clinical grounds, based on physical, mental, and social criteria. Complications were evaluated. We used the DASH Questionnaire to investigate functional outcome, pain, and ADL limitations.


Sixty-four patients were treated surgically for a displaced proximal fracture of the humerus: 15 two-part, 32 three-part, and 17 four-part fractures. Mean DASH scores were 37.5, 36.9, and 48.6, respectively. Regarding the operative methods, overall good results were obtained with the modern locked plate osteosynthesis (mean DASH 34.4). Prosthetic treatment, mostly used in highly comminuted fractures, often resulted in poor function (mean DASH 72.9). Persistent pain and ADL limitations were more present in more comminuted fractures (64 and 50 % in patients with 4-part fractures vs. 14 % in 2-part fractures). There were no postoperative deaths within 3 months of surgery, and fracture-related and non-fracture-related complication rates were low (non-union 3 %; 1 myocardial infarction).


This study shows that it is safe and justifiable to consider surgical treatment of a severely dislocated proximal humerus fracture in selected patients aged 75 and older.

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