Fixation of humerus shaft fractures in polytrauma patients does not improve short-term outcomes

Victor Ritter, Feng Chang Lin, Anna Miller, Robert F. Ostrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Surgical fixation of humeral shaft fractures is widely considered a relative indication for polytraumatized patients to improve mobility and expedite care. This study aimed to determine whether operative treatment of humeral shaft fractures improves short term outcomes in polytrauma (PT] patients. Methods: Using the National Trauma Data Bank, PT patients with humeral shaft fractures were identified from 2010-2015. Three PT groups were analyzed: Group 1 – PT with nonoperative humeral shaft fracture, Group 2 – PT with humeral fixation on Day 1, and Group 3 – PT with humeral fixation on Day 2+. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to compare discharge timing and days on ventilator and in ICU between the three groups. Results: There were 395 patients in Group 1, 1,346 in Group 2, and 1,318 in Group 3. There were no differences between the three groups when comparing Glasgow Coma Scale (p=0.3]; however, Injury Severity Score and Abbreviated Injury Scale were statistically different (p<0.001]. No differences were found in ICU or ventilator days between the three groups (p=0.2, p=0.5]. For Length of Stay, no difference was observed in Group 1 vs. Group 2 and Group 2 vs. Group 3. However, non-surgical patients were discharged 20% faster than those with Day 1 surgery (p=0.005]. Open fractures were treated one day earlier than closed fractures but discharged one day later (p<0.001]. Conclusions: This NTDB study demonstrates no differences in length of stay, days in the ICU or on the ventilator in patients with humeral shaft fractures treated non-operatively versus operative fixation. Overall, 44%-58% in all 3 groups had an ISS ≥ 14. Based on these results, we assert that fixation of the humeral shaft provides no short-term benefits in the multiply injured patient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-577
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Humeral shaft fracture
  • ISS
  • Length of stay
  • Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level IV
  • Polytrauma


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