Executive Editor: Chris Colton

Authors: Pol Rommens, Peter Trafton

Humeral shaft 12-C3 CRIF

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1 Principles top


General considerations

Acute and pathological fractures can be nailed.

For nailing, the fracture must be situated between the humeral neck and 5 cm above the olecranon fossa. The fracture type is of no importance.

Retrograde nailing offers the possibility of axial compression. This is recommended in fracture distraction, and for transverse and short oblique fracture types.

2 Determining nail diameter and length top


Use the radiographic ruler

Use a radiographic ruler to determine the correct diameter and length of the nail to be inserted.

The ruler is placed posteriorly on the arm and in line with the medullary canal.


Determine nail diameter

Visualize the medullary canal under image intensification in AP view and compare with the diameters of the marks on the ruler.

The correct size of the humeral nail corresponds to the diameter of the mark that fits completely into the medullary canal.

Look carefully at the distal humeral canal. It may be narrower than the rest.

In our example, a 7.5 mm nail diameter is chosen.


Determine nail length

Next, the ruler is placed parallel to the arm, with the top-of-nail mark at the level of the upper edge of the insertion site.

Take an AP image intensifier view of the proximal humerus together with the ruler, as above.

The humeral nail should be long enough to just enter into the humeral head. Determine this length with the aid of the ruler.

In our example a nail of 240 mm length is chosen.

3 Nail insertion top


Use of the compression device

If the fracture type indicates the application of interfragmentary compression (eg, transverse, or short oblique), the compression device must be mounted onto the nail, together with the insertion handle, at this stage.


Insertion handle

Mount the insertion handle on the nail base with the connection screw.

Ensure that the convexity of the nail curvature points away from the insertion handle.


Nail insertion

Insert the nail tip into the entry portal. Advance the nail in the distal fracture fragment using gentle rotatory movements.

Do not use a hammer, as this may increase the risk of fissure or fracture at the insertion site.

Advance the nail as far as the fracture site.



Use the nail tip as a reduction aid.

After passing the fracture site, adjust humeral shaft alignment, rotation and length.

Control under image intensification in two different planes.


The nail is then advanced gently until it has reached the desired position.

Avoid fracture distraction.


Ensure correct position

The nail should be inserted completely into the entry hole with its distal end located at the proximal margin of the entry portal.

Locate the distal end by means of a 3.2 mm drill bit, or a K-wire, passed through the corresponding hole in the insertion handle.

4 Interlocking: General considerations top



Static interlocking with two screws on each side of the fracture is recommended. When distal interlocking is performed first, rotation can be adjusted before proximal interlocking.

When axial compression is used, static interlocking at the distal end of the nail is performed as the last step.

Preliminary remark

The sequence of interlocking as shown below is the only way to enable axial compression. A different sequence can be chosen in other cases.

5 Distal dynamic interlocking top


First, insert the dynamic locking screw.

Place the sleeve system through the corresponding hole in the insertion handle, make a stab skin incision, and advance the sleeve system through this incision onto the humeral shaft.

Drill a hole for the dynamic interlocking screw using the 3.2 mm drill bit, through both cortices.

Measure the length of the hole.

The selected screw is inserted through the outer sleeve to engage both cortices.

6 Proximal interlocking top

For proximal interlocking, all three interlocking holes can be used. The insertion of at least two interlocking screws is recommended. For better purchase, placement of the screws in the metaphysis, or diaphysis, is preferable.

Do not damage the axillary nerve.


Position of the skin incision

Use the image intensifier and, by gentle rotatory movements of the arm, ensure that the selected interlocking hole appears as a perfect circle.

A sharp skin incision is made just over this circle.


Soft tissue dissection

Use a small clamp to prepare a track for insertion of the drill bit.

Blunt dissection of the soft tissues helps to protect the axillary nerve.



The positioning of the drill tip, its fine adjustment, and the drilling procedure are performed under image intensification. The radioopaque circles of the radiolucent drill should be centered on the locking hole.

Drill a hole using the 3.2 mm drill bit.



Insertion of interlocking screw

The length of the required screw is measured with a depth gauge.

To avoid losing the screw in the soft tissues during insertion and tightening, an absorbable suture is fastened around the screw’s head beforehand.


Insert the interlocking screw and subsequently check for correct position and length under image intensification in two planes.


Further procedures

Further interlocking procedures are performed in the same way as described under 6b-e.

7 Distal static interlocking top


Finally, place the static locking screw.

Place the sleeve system through the corresponding hole in the insertion handle, make a stab skin incision, and advance the sleeve system through this incision onto the humeral shaft. Sometimes the sleeve can be placed in the proximal edge of the larger skin incision made for the entry portal.

Drill a hole for the static interlocking screw using the 3.2 mm bit.

Measure the depth of the hole. The screw tip should just protrude through the far cortex.

The selected screw is inserted through the sleeve.

Final note

Should axial compression not be used, distal dynamic and static interlocking are performed together before or after proximal interlocking.

8 Fracture compression top


Use of the compression device

The compression device allows controlled axial compression.

If the fracture type indicates the application of axial compression (eg, transverse or short oblique), mount this device onto the nail with the insertion handle before insertion, and replace the connecting screw.


Measuring device to indicate gap closure

Before tightening the screw on the compression device, make sure that distal dynamic and proximal static interlocking have been performed.

At the top of the compression device there is a millimeter scale which indicates that a fracture gap up to 8 mm can be closed by tightening the screw.


Apply fracture compression

Apply fracture compression by turning the screw on the compression device in a clockwise direction.

Check gap closure under image intensification and monitor the scale on the compression device.


Static distal interlocking

The static distal interlocking screw is required for maintaining interfragmentary compression.

Insert this screw through the insertion handle as previously described.

Check under image intensification.

Final remark

When interlocking is completed, the definitive position of the implant is checked under image intensification in two planes. Take particular notice of the position of the proximal end of the nail and the location and length of all interlocking screws.

9 Nail capping and wound closure top


Cap the end of the nail

Remove the insertion handle and its connecting screw (with or without the compression device).

Insert an end cap in order to prevent ingrowth of bony tissue.

End caps of different lengths are available and may add as much as 15 mm to the overall length of the nail. Our example shows a 0 mm end cap, which fits completely into the nail.


Wound closure

Finally, the wounds are irrigated and cleaned.

Insert one drainage tube into the main wound.

The different layers of the main wound are closed separately. For the stab incisions, skin closure only is performed.

v1.0 2006-09-14