Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Radial Head Fractures

A radial head fracture is a break in the radial head, which is the top part of the radius bone in the elbow joint. The radial head articulates with the capitellum of the humerus and the lesser sigmoid notch of the ulna to allow forearm rotation and elbow flexion/extension. A radial head fracture can occur from a fall onto an outstretched arm or a direct blow to the elbow.

Common Symptoms

  • Elbow pain and swelling
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the elbow
  • Inability to rotate the forearm (palm up/down)

Cause & Anatomy

The radial head is susceptible to fracture due to its exposed position and lack of muscular protection around the elbow joint. Fractures often result from falls onto an outstretched arm or direct elbow trauma.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made through physical exam assessing pain, swelling, instability and X-rays. CT scans may be needed to evaluate displacement and involvement of the joint surface.

Prevention

Preventive measures include using protective gear during sports/activities and taking precautions to avoid falls.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the fracture severity and displacement:

  • Type I (minimally displaced) – Immobilization in a sling for a few weeks
  • Type II (displaced) – Surgery may be needed to fix with plates/screws or remove loose fragments
  • Type III (comminuted) – Surgery to fix, remove radial head, or radial head replacement

Surgery

For displaced or comminuted fractures, surgery aims to restore joint congruity and stability. Options include open reduction and internal fixation with plates/screws, radial head excision, or radial head arthroplasty (replacement).

Rehabilitation

After immobilization or surgery, physical therapy focuses on regaining range of motion, strength and function through stretching and exercises.

FAQ’s

Some common questions include recovery timelines, long-term outcomes, and optimal treatment for specific fracture patterns. Consulting an orthopedic specialist is recommended for personalized care.

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