Radial Head Fracture 

What is a radial head fracture?

Radial head fractures are common injuries, occurring more frequently in women than in men and most often between 30 and 40 years of age. The radial head is the part of the radius bone lying on the outside of the elbow.

Symptoms of a Radial Head Fracture:

  • Pain and swelling along the outside of the elbow.
  • Swelling in the elbow joint.
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the elbow.
  • Inability/difficulty in turning the forearm (palm up to palm down).

Causes of a Radial Head Fracture:

A radial head fracture occurs most frequently when an outstretched hand is used to break a fall. Sometimes the force of the fall can travel up the forearm and dislocate the elbow. Approximately 10 percent of all elbow dislocations also involve a fracture of the radial head.


A diagnosis is made following a thorough examination. An x-ray of the elbow will confirm the diagnosis and help classify the fracture, which are based on the severity of the fracture and other fracture features. A CT scan may also be indicated in order to determine the best treatment option.

Treatment Options:

    Treatment for radial head fractures is based on the severity of the fracture. Some are treated with splinting alone, while others may require surgical repair.

  • A splint or sling for several days or weeks, followed by a sling and early motion. (If too much motion is attempted too quickly, the bones may shift and become displaced, requiring surgery.)
  • Repair with pins or screws.
  • Replace broken pieces with a prosthesis (if comminuted fracture with multiple broken pieces).

Even the simplest radial head fracture can result in loss of elbow extension. Rehabilitation will follow most treatment plans in order to help patients regain range of motion and achieve optimal arm function.


© Copyright 2015 Dr. Allan Rosen MD