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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate the occurrence of emergency department (ED) visits due to humerus fractures in the US.

Methods

We analyzed the 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, which contained approximately 28 million ED records. We identified the cases of interest using diagnostic codes for proximal, shaft, and distal humerus fractures.

Results

In 2008, approximately 370,000 ED visits in the US resulted from humerus fractures. Proximal humerus fractures were the most common, accounting for 50% of humerus fractures. The incidence rate of proximal humerus fractures followed the shape of an exponential function in the age groups 40–84 years for women (R2 = 97.9%) and 60–89 years for men (R2 = 98.2%). After the exponential increase in these age intervals, the growth rate of proximal humerus fracture slowed and eventually decreased. The peak occurrence of distal humerus fractures was in children ages 5–9 years; however, elderly women had an increased risk. As the baby boomer generation ages, unless fracture prevention programs improve, more than 490,000 ED visits due to humerus fractures are expected in 2030 when the youngest of the baby boomers turn age 65 years.

Conclusion

Compared to epidemiologic studies in Japan and European countries, the incidence rates of humerus fractures are substantially higher in the US. The high incidence rate of humerus fractures in the expanding elderly population may contribute to the recent trend of rapid increase in shoulder arthroplasty in the US. Rigorous safety measures to reduce falls and improved preventive treatments of osteoporosis are needed.