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Humerus Fracture Management

A humerus fracture occurs when the long upper arm bone (humerus) breaks. Humeral fractures are classified according to two types: a proximal fracture that occurs closer to the shoulder joint and a humeral shaft fracture that originates in the middle of the upper arm.

Humerus fractures arise due to trauma from an injury, motor vehicle accident or fall. As a result, symptoms of pain, tenderness around the area in the upper arm, shoulder immobility and a grinding sensation when turning the arm occur. Bleeding may also occur in the event of an open fracture, and loss of the use of the arm may develop as a result of a nerve injury.

Both humeral shaft and proximal humerus fractures can be treated non-surgically by immobilising the upper arm. Bracing is a non-operative remedy for humerus shaft fractures. A Sarmiento brace, also considered a cylindrical brace fits the upper arm snugly while leaving the elbow free from discomfort. Generally, the patient is requested to wear the brace for a few weeks until the bone heals. Alternatively, a temporary splint secures the shoulder from the forearm to the elbow at a ninety-degree angle.

Fractures of the humerus sometimes require surgical treatment, in which open reduction and internal fixation are typically performed. I will carefully reposition the bones or fragments of bone and then place plates and screws on the outside or a nail on the inside of the bone in order to hold them in place.

Rehabilitation after fracture repair takes time, and through immobilisation techniques using a sling or splint, the bones will grow in the right direction as one. In the interim, strength training, including a range of motion exercises, will promote healing of the arm. In addition, by referring the patient to physiotherapy, the shoulder muscles will be more strengthened. In the process, stabilising the shoulder is made a priority to prevent instability at that point.


Non-displaced fractures do not require surgical repair and can be treated through bracing or a splint. Approximately seventy per cent of shoulder fractures are non-displaced, meaning that there is hope for a complete repair of a broken shoulder using conservative treatments.

It takes 6-10 weeks to recover from a broken shoulder completely. Even though more than ten per cent of fractures are displaced, these require surgery for the structure to return to normal anatomy.

Some fractures of the shoulder involve the bone attachments of the rotator cuff. This complicates the treatment.

You can only drive after removing your sling, and your surrounding muscles are strengthened. At a follow-up appointment, we will discuss your recovery and how well your fracture has healed.


Tel 011 794 5758

Tel 011 014 0505


Address Johannesburg Surgical Hospital, 219 Beyers Naude Drive, Northcliff Randburg 2195