June 13th, 2018 , JAAOS: Global Research and Reviews

Surgical Approaches to the Proximal Humerus: A Quantitative Comparison of the Deltopectoral Approach and the Anterolateral Acromial Approach (Abstract)

Authors: Harmer LS, Crickard CV, Phelps KD, McKnight RR, Sample KM, Andrews EB, Hamid N, Hsu JR.


Debate exists over the optimal approach for addressing fractures of the proximal humerus. The purpose of this study was to objectively quantify the surface area of the humerus exposed using the deltopectoral (DP) and anterolateral acromial (ALA) approaches and to compare visualized and palpable anatomic landmarks.


Ten arms on five fresh-frozen torsos underwent the DP and ALA approaches. The arms were positioned to simulate a supine patient and held in a fixed position. Visual and/or palpable access to relevant surgical landmarks and the myotendinous junctions were recorded. The myotendinous junctions were used as a rough approximation of consistent proximal exposure of a clinically retracted tuberosity. Landmarks were grouped into quadrants based on the location. Calibrated digital photographs of each approach were analyzed to calculate the surface area and the length of the exposed bone.


The DP and ALA approaches exposed 22.9 ± 6.3 cm2 and 16.3 ± 6.4 cm2, respectively (P = 0.03). The DP and ALA approachesprovided equivalent visual and palpable access to all landmarks in the superior and inferior quadrants. The ALA allowed improved visual (80% versus 70%) and palpable (100% versus 70%) access to the myotendinous junction of the infraspinatus in the posterior quadrant. The DP approach allowed better access to anterior quadrant structures, including improved ability to visualize the myotendinous junction of the subscapularis (100% versus zero), the subscapularis insertion (100% versus 80%), and the medial anatomic neck (100% versus 20%). Palpable access to the myotendinous junction of the subscapularis (100% versus 70%) and medial anatomic neck (100% versus 60%) was also improved with the DP.


In a cadaver model with fixed arm position, the DP provides increased exposure to the proximal humerus and more reliable access to anterior surgical landmarks, whereas the ALA allows improved access to the most posterior aspect of the shoulder.

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