Original Research

Proximal Humerus Fracture 3-D Modeling

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The 3-D computer model reconstruction of 3- and 4-part proximal humerus fractures were reliable and valid. The interclass correlation coefficients showed very good to excellent interobserver and intraobserver reliability for all measurements conducted. The averaged dimensions from all trials fell within the appropriate range of dimensions for a normal healthy humerus reported in the literature, as verified by the TOST method.11,12,13 The 3-D modeling capabilities demonstrated in this study allowed a greater understanding of the fracture patterns present in 3- and 4-part (AO classifications 11-B1, 11-B2, 11-C1, 11-C2) humerus fractures.

Overreduction of greater tuberosity to create cortical overlap with the lateral shaft may be used to promote bony union. As a result of this distalization, there may be extra strains placed on the rotator cuff, making the patient more prone to rotator cuff tear, as well as improperly balancing the dynamic stabilizers of the shoulder. Poor clinical outcomes in hemiarthroplasty for proximal humerus fractures have been correlated with a greater tuberosity placed distal relative to the humeral head by 1 cm in a study2 and by 2 cm in another.3

This study has several limitations. The first is the assumption that our injured patients had preinjury proximal humerus geometry within the range of normal dimensions of a healthy humerus. Unfortunately, because we were unable to obtain CT scans of the contralateral shoulder, we had to use standard proximal humerus geometry as the control. Another limitation, inherent in the technique, is that only cortical and dense trabecular bone was modeled, so that comminuted or osteoporotic bone was not well modeled. This study did not correlate the findings from these models with clinical outcomes. A prospective study is needed to evaluate the impact of this 3-D modeling on fracture reductions and clinical outcomes.

This study demonstrates that patient-specific modeling of proximal humerus fracture 3-D CT scans may help surgeons reliably and accurately reconstruct fractures. This technique may have utility in the preoperative planning of tuberosity fracture reduction and hemiarthroplasty. It gives surgeons the ability to visualize fracture fragments, and the process of reconstructing the fragments may help surgeons understand the required maneuvers for reduction at the time of surgery. This technique also provides dimensions of the patient’s native humerus, thus potentially improving the anatomic accuracy of the reduction or hemiarthroplasty reconstruction. With the new trend toward patient-specific instrumentation, this study also provides a means of planning the size of the humeral prostheses as well as the version relative to the biceps groove and intertubercular fracture line.


This study demonstrates the feasibility of using 3-D computer modeling of complex proximal humerus fractures in anatomic reconstruction. These techniques of computer-simulated 3-D models are valid and reliable. We believe that this technique of modeling and reconstructing proximal humerus fractures could be used to enhance the preoperative planning of hemiarthroplasty for 3- and 4-part proximal humerus fractures by providing improved understanding of the patient’s native humeral geometry and tuberosity reduction.


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