Conditions & Treatments

Radial Head Fracture

Fractures of the head of the radius are another injury that can potentially result from a fall on an outstretched arm. The head of the radius lies at the upper end of the bone, near the elbow. Colles fracture is a separate but also common fracture of the radius occurring near the wrist. Fractures of the radial head are most common in women between 30 and 40 years old. They are commonly a complication of elbow dislocation, particularly as the upper arm bone re-aligns after the dislocation.

Symptoms include pain on the outer elbow, acute joint swelling, restriction of elbow movement or pain during movement.

  • Type I fractures do not involve displacement of the bone—they look like an assembled puzzle, and may or may not be visible on initial X-rays. They are treated by immobilization followed by gentle motion after a few days.
  • Type II fractures involve moderate displacement and are larger. Treatment involves splinting, pinning, or bone fragment removal, depending on the precise nature of the fracture.
  • Type III fractures involve three or more pieces of bone that cannot be fitted back together. Surgery is required to remove broken bone and repair joint and ligament damage. Movement of the elbow is necessary soon after surgery to maintain elbow mobility.