What Is A Radial Head Fracture?
The radial head is part of the radius, one of the two bones in the forearm. The radial head is located at the end of the radius that helps to form the elbow joint. A radial head fracture is usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. The force from the fall travels from the hand, through the forearm bones into the elbow.
What Are The Symptoms?
Common symptoms include pain on the outside of the elbow, swelling and bruising. Many patients will be unable to completely straighten the elbow or rotate the palm up (supination).
How Is It Treated?
Treatment of radial head fractures is dependent on the complexity of the fracture. Many radial head fractures are simple cracks with minimal displacement and do not require surgery. These types of fractures are treated in a splint or a sling for 1-2 weeks and early elbow range of motion is recommended.
When Is Surgery Recommended?
Surgery is recommended for complex fractures when there are several fragments or if there is significant displacement of the fracture. If left alone, these types of fractures will get in the way of the elbow range of motion. The goal of surgery is to restore elbow motion. This can be achieved through a small open incision on the outside of the elbow. The fracture fragments are fixated together using a combination of small metal pins and/or plates and screws. This is called an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF). Other surgical methods include excision of the radial head and radial head arthroplasty (replacement). You and your surgeon will determine the best surgical plan based on the fracture type and activity level.