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Radial Head Fracture Repair and Replacement
Dr. James Chen, M.D. - In San Francisco, CA



Dr. Chen’s presentation on radial head fractures and replacement:

Radial Head Fracture Repair

A surgical procedure performed to repair a broken radius at the elbow. An incision is made along the back of the elbow over the radius bone. Soft tissues are carefully dissected to expose the broken bone. The bone fragments are aligned appropriately and secured with screws alone or with a plate and screws. Adequacy of fracture reduction and placement of the plate or screws are verified during surgery with X-ray.


Radial Head Replacement

A surgical procedure performed to replace the head of the radius due to an irreparable fracture. An incision is made over the elbow and the bone is exposed. Fragments of bone and the end of the radius bone are removed. A metal implant is cemented into the end of the radius providing a smooth joint surface. The elbow is then examined to ensure proper alignment, motion, and stability.

Common Questions about Radial Head Fracture Repair

What is a radial head fracture repair?

A radial head fracture repair is performed in order to repair a broken radius near the elbow.

How are radial head fractures classified?

Type I fractures are usually non-displaced and consist of small cracks. A splint and physical therapy is often recommended for type I fractures. Type II fractures are slightly displaced and have larger cracks. Surgery may be needed for a type II fracture if a splint and physical therapy do not help or the bones are too displaced. Type III fractures usually involve soft tissue damage as well as several displaced pieces of bone. Surgery is necessary to treat type III fractures.

Do radial head fractures require surgery?

Surgery is usually not required for Type I fractures. Type II fractures may need surgery depending on how displaced the bones are. Type III fractures always require surgery.

How is a radial head fracture repair performed?

An incision is made over the elbow and the bone fragments are aligned, then screwed. Screws alone may be used as well as a combination of a plate and screws. X-rays are used to verify proper alignment and hardware placement.


Common Questions about Radial Head Replacement

How is a radial head replacement performed?

An incision is made over the elbow. Displaced bone fragments as well as the radial head are removed. A radial head implant is fixed to the remaining bone and x-rays are taken to confirm proper alignment and hardware placement.

What is the rehabilitation protocol after a radial head replacement?

Early motion after a radial head replacement is critical to regaining range of motion and strength. Physical therapy can begin on the first post-operative day, and involves assisted active range of motion as well as passive range of motion. Nighttime extension splinting is carried out for the first six weeks following the surgery.

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