Intrathoracic displacement of a fractured humeral head


The patient presented to the ER after lateral impaction during a high-speed motor vehicle accident. He was conscious, tachypneic and had a deformity of the left shoulder. Peripheral pulses and nerves are intact except the axillary nerve could not be assessed due to severe pain. After the CT, the patient was transferred to the ICU for further management of hemodynamics. An anterolateral thoracotomy was performed to extract the migrated head of the left humerus that lay adjacent to the aortic arch. A 4-5 cm left apical pulmonary laceration was repaired for hemostasis. After a full recovery, the patient underwent a split-thickness graft on the left hand, left clavicle and olecranon fixation and was transferred to another center for hemiarthroplasty.

Although extremely rare, intrathoracic displacement of a fractured humeral head can be initially missed due to other serious injuries in the region, can be a life-threatening condition and in need of urgent surgical intervention.

The case is courtesy of Dr Mounther Al Daradkah, Chest Surgery Consultant, RCMC.

Thanks to Dr Hatem Mahmoud Hanafi for supplying the photo.