Radial Head Fracture

A radial head fracture refers to a break or fracture in the radial head, which is the rounded part of the radius bone located at the elbow joint. The radius is one of the two bones in the forearm, and the radial head plays an important role in forearm rotation and elbow stability. Radial head fractures are commonly caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact to the elbow. They can occur during sports activities, accidents, or other traumatic events.

Radial head fractures can vary in severity and location, and they may be classified as follows:

  • Nondisplaced Fractures: The fractured pieces of the radial head remain in their normal position.
  • Displaced Fractures: The fractured pieces are out of alignment or separated from each other.
  • Comminuted Fractures: The fracture involves multiple pieces or fragments of the radial head.

X-rays are commonly used to confirm a radial head fracture. A CT scan of your elbow is sometimes needed to determine the exact location and pattern of the fracture, and assess any associated injuries

radial head

Radial Head

The radial head (arrow) is one of the three bones of the elbow joint. It is important for elbow movement and for its stability

radial head fracture

Radial Head Fracture

An X-Ray of a depressed radial head fracture (arrow)

Treatment

For nondisplaced or minimally displaced fractures, where the bone fragments remain in their normal position, immobilisation in a sling is often the initial treatment. The sling  helps to support and immobilise the elbow, allowing it to heal. Sling immobilisation is usually needed for 1-2 weeks and gradually weaned to allow early range of motion.

Surgery for wrist fractures is typically considered in certain cases where the fracture is significantly displaced, associated with multiple fragments, open fractures, or fractures with associated injuries. The surgical treatment aims to realign and stabilise the fractured bone fragments to promote proper healing.

Surgery may be recommended for more severe fractures, fractures with multiple fragments or fractures that cause a block to your movement. Surgical options may include open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), radial head replacement, or excision/removal of the fractured fragment.

 

Recovery

The recovery time for a radial head fracture can vary depending on your specific injury. In general, you will wear a sling for 1-2 weeks and are encouraged to move your elbow early to avoid any stiffness. The injured elbow is prone to stiffness, especially in extension (straightening your elbow):

  1. Initial Healing Phase (1-2 weeks): In the first few weeks after a radial fracture, the focus is on immobilisation and protecting the injured area. You will usually wear a sling.
  2. Early Rehabilitation Phase (2-6 weeks): Once the initial healing has taken place, the next phase involves early mobilisation and gentle range-of-motion exercises. You will be referred to a physiotherapist to help you during this phase to improve elbow range of motion.
  3. Mid Rehabilitation Phase (6-12 weeks): As the fracture continues to heal, more intensive rehabilitation and strengthening exercises are introduced. These exercises target the muscles and joints around the elbow to regain strength, stability, and range of motion.
  4. Return to Normal Activities (12weeks+): Once your fracture has healed, you can return to normal activities, such as manual work and sports.

 

Get Expert Help

If you have injured yourself, it is important to get your injury evaluated and to perform appropriate diagnostic tests. Dr. Arthur Turow can assess your injury, provide you with an accurate diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment options specific for your individual needs.

Please use above information as a guide only. More detailed information specific to your condition and your recovery will be given in your consultation with Dr. Arthur Turow, who will also provide additional resources to supplement your discussion. For more information, please contact the rooms of Dr. Arthur Turow on (08) 8236 4179.