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The valgus-impacted (VI) 4-part fractures are a subset of fractures of the proximal humerus with a unique anatomic configuration characterized by a relatively lower incidence of avascular necrosis after operative intervention. We systematically reviewed clinical studies assessing the benefits and harms of least possible fixation techniques (LPFT) for this unique fracture type. Such information would be potentially helpful in developing an evidence-based approach in the management of these complex injuries. We performed analytic searches of PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Google Scholar and the Cochrane Library, restricting it to the years 1991-2014. Included studies had to describe outcomes and complications after primary osteosynthesis with any type of LPFT apart from plate-screws and intramedullary nailing. Eligibility criteria were also included English language, more than 5 cases, minimum follow up of one year and report of clinical outcome using at least one relevant score (Constant, Neer or ASES). Based on 292 database hits we identified 12 eligible studies including 190 four-part valgus impacted fractures in 188 patients. All eligible studies were case series composed of min 8 to max 45 patients per study. The gender distribution was 60% (112) female and 40% (76) male. The average age of the patients at the time of injury was 54.5 years. In 8/12 studies an open reduction was used for fracture fixation using different surgical techniques including KW, cerclage wires, cannulated screws and osteosutures. Closed reduction and percutaneous fixation was used in 4 studies. Mean follow-up time ranged from 24 to 69 months. A good functional outcome (constant score >80) was reported in 9/12 studies. The most common complication was avascular necrosis of the humeral head with an overall incidence of 11% (range, 0-26.3%). Total avascular necrosis (AVN) was found in 15/188 patients (7.9%) and was more common in percutaneous techniques and partial AVN in 6/188 (3.1%) being more common in open techniques. The overall re-operation rate was very low (3.7%). Insufficient study designs cannot provide definite treatment recommendations and quantitative data synthesis of outcome. In general, LPFT for 4-part VI fractures leads to satisfactory outcomes with low incidence of complications. A considerable risk of biases can be attributed to fracture classification, proper radiological control, mean age of patients, mixed types of fixation methods, nonage adjusted clinical scoring and small follow up periods. These factors are discussed in detail. Level of evidence: systematic review of literature (level IV) as most of the studies were level IV.
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