[Unreconstructible radial head fracture: resection, implant of Swanson or prosthesis? Retrospective comparative study]

L Obert, D Lepage, D Huot, F Givry, P Clappaz, P Garbuio, Y Tropet
Chirurgie de la Main 2005, 24 (1): 17-23
Treatment of unreconstructible comminuted fractures of the radial head remains a therapeutic challenge. Thirty two patients sustained unreconstructible radial head fracture between 1969 and 1999 and have been treated by resection (16 patients), by Swanson implant (8 patients), or by Judet prosthesis (8 patients). The three groups of patients were reviewed clinically and radiologically by two surgeons not involved in their treatment. Functional outcomes of the elbow (Morrey scoring-SOO scoring system, instability, cubitus valgus) and involvement of the wrist (pain, grasp, RUD instability) were evaluated with a mean follow up of 15 years (6-27.7). Elbow or wrist arthritis, ulnar variance, and evolution of Swanson implants were evaluated on standard radiographs. The Judet prosthesis group was evaluated with DASH scoring. Half of the patients were male and 1/3 had a work-related injury. Regarding the following criteria, there was no significant difference between the resection and the Swanson group: Morrey scoring 77/100, SOO scoring 7.4/11, mean flexion was 130 degrees, mean deficient extension was 18 degrees, mean pronation 60 degrees, mean supination 67 degrees, grasp reached 90% of the controlateral side. Arthritis was noted with the same frequency at the elbow (87%), and wrist levels (66%) in each group. Ninety four percent (94%) of patients in the resection group and 89% in the Swanson group were satisfied. Excellent and good results were reported more frequently in the Swanson group (37% resection group, 51% Swanson group). In the resection group the following complications were significantly more frequent: ulnar nerve irritation (2 x), ulnar head dislocation (2 x), ulnar head instability (3 x), para articular ossification (5 x), ulnar variance positive in all cases (mean value 3.20 mm). In the Swanson group only two implants were found to be destroyed at follow-up. In the prosthesis group function and satisfaction were higher than the two other groups but with a shorter follow up. Excellent and good results were reported in 62.5% cases with a DASH scoring between 0 and 16.7. Comminuted fractures of the radial head treated by resection or Swanson implant are both followed by fair results (same functional scoring). Only the level of complications differs between groups: at elbow level for Swanson group, at wrist level for the resection group. Patients in the Swanson group were most frequently satisfied. Metal radial head implant is an attractive solution yielding good functional outcomes in recent reported limited series and in our personal experience, but with a very short follow-up.


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