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Shoulder Fractures- Overview of Proximal Humerus Fractures

Proximal humeral fractures are a very common broken bone and involes one of the main bones comprising the shoulder joint.  These fractures can be a very painful injury that decreases your ability to move your shoulder and arm. Most proximal humeral fractures are treated nonoperative with sling immobilization for several weeks and pain medication.  Surgery is sometimes needed if the fracture is not aligned properly to allow adequate healing and use of the shoulder.  Evaluation by a shoulder expert is needed to determine the best course of treatment and optimize shoulder function and recovery.

Most proximal humerus fractures involve acute onset of symptoms with symptoms usually including pain at the shoulder and arm, difficulty with moving the shoulder and arm, as well as often times swelling and bruising down the arm and sometimes into the chest. 

A fracture of your shoulder usually involves trauma to your arm or shoulder, usually a fall or sometimes a twisting injury.  If you suspect that you have a proximal humeral fracture, it is important to see a shoulder expert like Dr. William Schell as soon as possible.   Prompt evaluation and treatment helps lessen any significant (and possibly permanent) loss of arm function.

If your healthcare provider suspects that you have a fracture, an X-ray will likely be taken to confirm the diagnosis. Occasionally, more advanced pictures of your shoulder will be taken with a computed tomography (CT) scan. These images help your practitioner see the severity of your injury and help decide on the best way to manage your injury.

For severe fractures where the bone pieces are far apart, a surgical procedure to realign and hold in position with a plate and screws may be needed and in some cases shoulder replacement may need to be performed if the damage is to severe to fix the pieces.

After a period of initial immoblization,  physical therapy is usually required to regain shoulder motion and strength.

Author
William Schell, MD

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