Comparing treatments

  Brace Surgery
What can I expect?

To date, our best evidence suggests that on average surgery may not improve your shoulder or elbow function. It is possible that some fractures will benefit more than others.

What is the treatment?

You wear a brace for about 8 weeks.

Metal devices are used to keep the fracture from moving while it heals.

What is the advantage?

You avoid the risks of surgery.

You can use your arm a few weeks earlier.

The fracture is less likely to heal in a bent position.

Top third fractures and fractures with separation of the fragments may be more likely to heal with surgery.

What is the disadvantage?

A brace can be a bit cumbersome and can cause skin problems.

Your arm will be difficult to move and use for about 8 weeks.

Your fracture might heal with a bend, which you may or may not notice.

There is a small chance that the bone will not heal and you will choose surgery about 6 weeks after injury.

The scar.

The risks, discomforts, and inconveniences of surgery.


What are the risks?

Of 100 people treated with a brace, about 6-13 fractures have trouble healing (depending on patient and fracture characteristics).

Some fractures are less likely to heal:

  • Fractures in the top third of the humerus (about 20 out of 100).
  • Fractures with more separation.

Fractures of the bottom third nearly always heal, but sometimes with a slight bend.

10 out of 100 people choose surgery later.

Of 100 people that choose surgery, about 4 have trouble healing, 4 have an infection, and 5 have nerve damage (most are temporary).

10 out of 100 people that choose surgery will have additional surgery for infection, loose implants, or another problem.