Scientific Articles   |    
Unconstrained Shoulder Arthroplasty for Treatment of Proximal Humeral Nonunions
Thomas R. Duquin, MD1; Justin A. Jacobson, MD1; Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo, MD, PhD1; John W. Sperling, MD1; Robert H. Cofield, MD1
1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, MN 55905. E-mail address for R.H. Cofield: cofield.robert@mayo.edu
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Sep 05;94(17):1610-1617. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.J.01975
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Unconstrained shoulder arthroplasty is one of several methods for treatment of proximal humeral fracture nonunions. The goal of this study was to define the results and complications of this procedure.


From 1976 to 2007, sixty-seven patients underwent unconstrained shoulder arthroplasty for proximal humeral nonunion and were followed for more than two years. There were forty-nine women and eighteen men with a mean age of sixty-four years and a mean duration of follow-up of nine years (range, two to thirty years). The fracture type according to the Neer classification was two-part in thirty-six patients, three-part in sixteen, and four-part in fifteen. Hemiarthroplasty was performed in fifty-four patients and total shoulder arthroplasty was done in the remaining thirteen.


There were thirty-three excellent or satisfactory results according to the modified Neer rating. Tuberosity healing about the prosthesis occurred in thirty-five shoulders. The mean pain score improved from 8.3 preoperatively to 4.1 at the time of follow-up (p < 0.001). The average active shoulder elevation and external rotation improved from 46° and 26° to 104° and 50° (p < 0.001). Shoulders with anatomic or nearly anatomic healing of the tuberosities had greater active elevation at the time of final follow-up (p = 0.02). There were fourteen complications in twelve patients, with twelve reoperations including five revisions. Kaplan-Meier survivorship with revision as the end point was 97% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 94.3, 100) at one year and 93% (95% CI: 88.0, 99.2) at five, ten, and twenty years.


Shoulder arthroplasty decreases pain and improves function in patients with a proximal humeral nonunion. However, the overall results are satisfactory in less than half of the patients. Tuberosity healing is inconsistent and influences the functional outcome.

Level of Evidence: 

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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