Complications after non-surgical management of proximal humeral fractures: a systematic review of terms and definitions

BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2019; 20: 91 (Journal)

Brorson S., Alispahic N., Bahrs C., Joeris A., Steinitz A., Audige L.

BACKGROUND: A majority of proximal humeral fractures can be managed without surgery. Recent randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses even question the benefit of surgical treatment for displaced 3-, and 4-part fractures. However, evidence-based treatment recommendations, balancing benefits and harms, presuppose a common reporting of complications and adverse events, which at the moment is largely missing. Therefore we systematically reviewed the use of terms and definitions of complications after nonsurgical management of proximal humeral fractures. METHODS: We searched PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus and WorldCat (2010-2017) and included articles and book chapters containing complication terms or definitions. Two reviewers independently extracted and grouped terms and definitions according to a predefined scheme. Terms and definitions concerning non-surgical management were tabulated, grouped and analyzed qualitatively. RESULTS: The initial search identified 1376 references from which 470 articles were selected for full-text retrieval. Data-extraction included first articles published in 2017, was then performed iteratively in batches of 20 articles, and terminated after retrieval of 91 articles when no additional definitions or terms was found. In addition, 12 book chapters were reviewed from an initial list of 100. No general definition of a complication was found. A total of 69 terms for complications after non-surgical management were identified from 19 articles. Sixty-seven terms regarded local events. The most commonly reported event terms regarded osteonecrosis, malunion, secondary displacement and rotator cuff problems. Seven individual terms were accompanied by some kind of definition. Most terms and definitions were based on radiographical assessments. CONCLUSIONS: We found no consensus in the use of terms and definitions of complications after nonsurgical management of proximal humeral fractures. Multiple terms, some synonymous, some partly synonymous, some distinct, were used. Few complication terms were explicitly defined. Development and validation of an internationally consensus-based core event set for complications after proximal humeral fractures managed non-surgically is needed.

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