Long-term results of radial head resection following isolated radial head fractures in patients younger than forty years old

Samuel A Antuña, José M Sánchez-Márquez, Raúl Barco
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2010, 92 (3): 558-66

BACKGROUND: In the past, radial head resection was the surgical treatment of choice for radial head fractures that could not be internally fixed. More recently, radial head implant arthroplasty has gained popularity for the treatment of isolated radial head fractures. The purpose of the present study was to review the long-term results of radial head resection after radial head fractures not associated with elbow instability in patients younger than forty years of age.

METHODS: Twenty-six patients younger than forty years of age who had sustained an isolated fracture of the radial head (including six patients who had sustained a Mason type-II fracture and twenty who had sustained a Mason type-III fracture) that had been treated with primary radial head resection were reviewed retrospectively at a minimum of fifteen years (mean, twenty-five years). Outcomes were evaluated according to the Mayo Elbow Performance Score and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score. Radiographic assessment of osteoarthritic changes and the carrying angle was also performed.

RESULTS: Twenty-one patients (81%) had no elbow pain, three had mild pain, and two had moderate pain. The mean arc of motion was from 9 degrees to 139 degrees of flexion. All but one patient had a functional arc of motion. The mean pronation was 84 degrees, and the mean supination was 85 degrees. Nineteen elbows had normal strength in comparison with the unaffected side. The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Score was 95 points; the score was classified as good or excellent for twenty-four elbows (92%) and as fair for two. The mean Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score was 6 points. Three patients complained of wrist pain, which was mild in two patients and moderate in one. In four patients, some degree of elbow instability could be detected on physical examination. The mean carrying angle of the involved elbow was significantly greater than that of the uninjured elbow (21 degrees compared with 10 degrees). Radiographic changes of arthritis were considered mild in seventeen elbows and moderate in nine. We could not detect significant differences in functional outcome on the basis of the degree of radiographic change.

CONCLUSIONS: Radial head resection in young patients with isolated fractures without instability yields long-term satisfactory results in >90% of cases. Osteoarthritic changes are uniformly present but typically are not associated with functional impairment.


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