A series of 78 fractures of the humeral shaft is presented that were treated operatively between 1978 and 1987. Open fractures, fractures with primary palsy of the radial nerve, distal fractures with an intraarticular component, fractures in polytraumatized patients and non-unions were absolute indications for operative stabilization in this series. In 71 fractures, internal stabilization was performed and in 7 fractures external fixation. In 16 fractures (20.6%), primary palsy of the radial nerve was present. In 10 patients (12.8%), radial nerve palsy appeared postoperatively. Nonunions and deep infections did not occur. In two cases, a second osteosynthesis was necessary after loosening of the implants. The humeral shaft fracture shows normal bony consolidation after conservative treatment as well as appropriate plate osteosynthesis. Nine of the 16 patients with primary radial nerve palsy (56.2%) and 6 of the 10 patients with secondary radial nerve palsy (60%) had total functional recovery. In our series, intraoperative palsy of the radial nerve was the most frequent complication after dissection of spiroid fractures in the middle or lower third of the humeral shaft. In this fracture form, a more unstable osteosynthesis, such as intramedullary pinning in accordance to Hackethal, should be chosen.