Comminuted fractures of the radial head: resection or prosthesis?

Yaiza Lópiz, Ana González, Carlos García-Fernández, Javier García-Coiradas, Fernando Marco
Injury 2016, 47 Suppl 3: S29-S34

INTRODUCTION: At present, surgical treatment of comminuted radial head fractures without associated instability continues to be controversial. When anatomical reconstruction is not possible, radial head excision is performed. However, the appearance of long-term complications with this technique, along with the development of new radial head implants situates arthroplasty as a promising surgical alternative. The purpose of the present study was to compare the mid-term functional outcomes of both techniques.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective study was performed between 2002 and 2011 on 25 Mason type-III fractures, 11 patients treated with primary radial head resection and 14 who received treatment of the fracture with metal prosthesis. At the end of follow-up, patients were contacted and outcomes evaluated according to: Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS), the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score (DASH) and strength measurement. Radiographic assessment (proximal migration of the radius, osteoarthritic changes, and signs of prosthesis loosening) was also performed.

RESULTS: The average age of the sample was 53.7 years in the resection group, and 54.4 years in the replacement group, with a mean follow-up of 60.3 and 42 months respectively. According to the MEPS scale, there were 6 excellent cases, 3 good and 2 acceptable in the resection group, and 6 excellent cases, 3 good, 3 acceptable, and 2 poor in the prosthesis group. The mean DASH score were 13.5, and 24.8 for the resection and the replacement group respectively. We found one postoperative complication in the resection group (stiffness and valgus instability) and 6 in the replacement group: 3 of joint stiffness, 1 case of prosthesis breakage, and 2 neurological injuries.

CONCLUSIONS: Although this is a retrospective study, the high complication rate occurring after radial head replacement in comparison with radial head resection, as well as good functional results obtained with this last technique, leads us to recommend it for comminuted radial head fractures without associated instability.


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