Proximal humerus fractures occur when the humerus (the upper arm bone) is broken at the proximal end—that is, the end that is closest to the shoulder. This is one of the most common types of fracture, accounting for some 5% of all fractures.
In this blog, NYC proximal humerus fracture treatment specialist, Dr. Francis Mendoza will address some of the causes and explain how you can find relief.
What are the most common causes of a proximal humerus fracture?
While this type of injury can occur for various reasons, proximal humerus fractures are most common in older people, especially those who have osteoporosis, or brittle, porous bones. In this population, the injury most often occurs due to a fall from a standing height, when the person lands on their outstretched arm.
When this type of fracture occurs in young people, it is usually the result of a traumatic injury. This may include falling directly on the shoulder, or a direct blow to the shoulder.
What are the treatments for a proximal humerus fracture?
The goal of treatment, of course, is to allow the bone and soft tissue to heal and to maintain function and range of motion of the arm and shoulder. Treatment involves immobilizing the bone in its correct anatomical position until healing can occur.
In most cases, the bone is not displaced—that is, out of position—so surgery isn’t usually necessary. The most appropriate treatment is typically a supportive sling combined with a rehabilitation program. It is, however, important that the injury be correctly diagnosed. A shoulder fracture and a shoulder dislocation can produce similar symptoms, and proper treatment depends on proper diagnosis.
How will I know if I need surgery for a proximal humerus fracture?
In more complicated fractures, when the bone is displaced, treatment includes restoring the bone to its proper position and keeping it there while it heals.
In these cases, surgery may be necessary. Determining whether this is the best option depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The type of fracture you’ve sustained – Proximal humerus fractures can be described as 1-part (where the bone is not displaced), 2-part (where the bone is displaced), 3-part (where two parts of the bone are displaced), and 4-part. The more displaced parts, the more severe the injury.
- Your age – The younger you are, the more quickly and completely you will heal.
- Your general health – The healthier you are overall, the better your outcome is likely to be.
- Your expectations – Are you very active? Or are you sedentary? How important is regaining full function of the arm and shoulder to you?
- Your willingness to commit to a lengthy recovery process – Recovery may take up to a year and involve a demanding rehabilitation program.
- The expected success of surgery – Surgery will only be recommended if it’s likely that surgery can actually stabilize the bone and restore its anatomical structure.
Where can I get a consultation for my proximal humerus injury in NYC?
Dr. Mendoza, NYC orthopedic shoulder surgeon, offers a full range of treatments and emphasizes treating conditions with nonsurgical methods whenever possible. Dr. Mendoza is a graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and has served as the Director of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital for many years.
If you’re suffering from a proximal humerus fracture and want the best possible outcome, contact Dr. Mendoza today for a full consultation.