What is Radial Head Fracture of the Elbow?
Radial head fractures of the elbow most commonly affect women between the age of 30-40 years and account for up to 20% of all immediate onset elbow injuries. The radial head is found in the elbow at the end of the radius forming stability of the elbow joint and allowing rotational movement of the forearm. Commonly caused by falling onto an outstretched hand used to break the fall, radial head fractures may be categorised into 3 types of injury according to their severity.
Type I Radial Head Fractures
Very small fractures which do not cause the bone to break apart
Type II Radial Head Fractures
Cause minimal displacement of small fragments of bone from the fracture site
Type III Radial Head Fractures
Cause major displacement of multiple fragments of bone which cannot be reduced for healing
Symptoms of radial head fracture of the elbow include pain, inflammation, swelling and difficulty bending or twisting the elbow.
It is important to get your elbow pain diagnosed by a professional orthopaedic consultant so that you can manage your condition correctly. Dr Manish Gupta is an elbow expert and will help you determine what is causing your pain and advise you the best plan to fix it quickly.
Elbow fracture? You need an elbow expert!
If you suspect fracture at the elbow, don't rush the diagnosis of your condition which may not always show up on X-Ray.
It is important to treat it quickly before it sets incorrectly, causing secondary harm.
Dr Manish Gupta is a qualified elbow expert and available to help you with your elbow condition.
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Radial head fracture at the elbow may exhibit the following symptoms;
- Severe pain at the front of the elbow
- Associated clicking and grinding with elbow movement
- Loss of elbow movement
Radial head fracture at the elbow may be caused by:
- Breaking a fall with your hand
- Falling awkwardly on an outstretched arm
The elbow is typically a non-weight bearing joint, which means direct impact injuries often lose their force as the arm moves with the impact. This situation changes, however, when a fall to the ground is interrupted by reaching out with the arm to break the fall. When this occurs, the elbow can no longer dissipate the impact force travelling through the arm and a break may occur at radial head at the elbow.
Sports like netball, horse riding, hockey and volley ball can cause elbow fractures due to the nature of the falls sustained.
Trips and falls at the workplace when working in busy restaurants, at events, in hospitals, and on the road as sales reps can increase your chances of sustaining radial head fracture at the elbow.
To diagnose radial head fracture at the elbow, the consultant will question the patient to:
- Understand the nature of the injury (sports, work, accident, overuse etc)
- Determine the cause of the injury (impact, collision, fall, repetitive/slow onset)
- Understand the context of the suffering (age, return to sport, work, impact on daily living)
- Perform a physical examination to ascertain pain and stability
- Perform specialised shoulder tests to confirm diagnosis
Radial Head Fracture at the Elbow
A radial head fracture at the elbow will present with the following positive signs;
- Injury caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm
- X-Ray confirming radial head fracture
- Painful and swollen over the radial head of the patient
- Elbow weakness bending and twisting the elbow
Some Type I radial head fractures at the elbow do not appear on X-Ray. It is important to perform a thorough examination of the elbow, to ascertain an accurate diagnosis.
If you have been putting up with elbow pain for too long, you may have an undiagnosed condition you are unaware of. Dr Manish Gupta is an elbow expert and can quickly diagnose your condition to determine the right care for you.
Treatment of radial head fracture at the elbow should always begin with a thorough diagnosis of your condition to understand the severity of the condition in the context of your age, your sport, your work and your life.
Type I and Type II Radial Head Fractures at the elbow may be treated conservatively (non-surgically) with immobilisation, rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medication and with physiotherapy treatment after 6 weeks of immobilisation for improved strength and better elbow function.
Type III Radial Head Fractures are indicated for surgery and will require open reduction internal fixation (ORIF surgery).
Elbow fractures are difficult conditions to treat. Dr Manish Gupta is a very skilled elbow specialist and knows what to look out for when diagnosing elbow fractures and how to reconstruct elbows which may be fractured in many pieces.