Radial head fracture (fracture of the elbow)

Arms | Orthopaedics | Radial head fracture (fracture of the elbow) (Disease)


Radial head fracture is the most common broken elbow bone seen in adults. This type of injury is most commonly caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. Radial head fractures cause pain and swelling around the elbow.

Symptoms include: pain on the outside of the elbow, swelling in the elbow joint, difficulty in bending or straightening the elbow accompanied by pain, inability or difficulty in turning the forearm(palm up or palm down and vice versa).

Radial head fractures are classified according to the degree of displacement (movement from the normal position) and so there are: Type 1, 2 and 3 fractures.

Causes and Risk factors

Radial head fractures are common injuries, occurring in about 20 percent of all acute elbow injuries. They are more frequent in women than in men and occur most often between 30 and 40 years of age.

Approximately 10 percent of all elbow dislocations involve a fracture of the radial head. As the upper arm bone (humerus) and the ulna return to their normal alignment, a piece of the radial head bone could be chipped off.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment of radial head fractures depends on the appearance of the fracture on X-ray. Radial head fractures that are not badly displaced can be managed by splinting the elbow for a short period of time.

More significantly displaced radial head fractures may require surgery for stabilization of the fracture, or possibly an excision of the radial head. ...

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