Comminuted fractures of the radial head. Comparison of resection and internal fixation

Masayoshi Ikeda, Kazuhiro Sugiyama, Chonte Kang, Tomonori Takagaki, Yoshinori Oka
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2005, 87 (1): 76-84

BACKGROUND: Satisfactory internal fixation of comminuted radial head fractures is often difficult to achieve, and radial head resection has been the accepted treatment. In this study, we compared the results of radial head resection with those of open reduction and internal fixation in patients with a comminuted radial head fracture.

METHODS: Twenty-eight patients with a Mason type-III radial head fracture (some with associated injuries) were enrolled in the study. Fifteen patients underwent radial head resection as the initial treatment (Group I), and thirteen patients underwent open reduction and internal fixation (Group II). The age at the operation averaged 41.1 and 38.2 years, respectively, and the duration of follow-up averaged ten and three years, respectively. The outcomes were assessed on the basis of pain, motion, radiographic findings, and strength measured with Cybex testing. The overall outcome was rated with the functional rating score described by Broberg and Morrey and with the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Elbow Assessment Form.

RESULTS: Elbow motion averaged 15.5 degrees (extension loss) to 131.4 degrees (flexion) in Group I and 7.1 degrees to 133.8 degrees in Group II. The carrying angle and ulnar variance averaged 8.2 degrees and 1.9 mm in Group I and 1.5 degrees and 0.5 mm in Group II. Compared with Group II, Group I had a loss of strength in extension, pronation, and supination (p < 0.01). The Broberg and Morrey functional rating score averaged 81.4 points in Group I and 90.7 points in Group II (p = 0.0034). The score on the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Elbow Assessment Form averaged 87.3 points in Group I and 94.6 points in Group II (p = 0.0031).

CONCLUSIONS: The patients in whom the comminuted radial head fracture was treated with open reduction and internal fixation had satisfactory joint motion, with greater strength and better function than the patients who had undergone radial head resection. These results support a recommendation for open reduction and internal fixation in the treatment of this fracture.


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