Scientific Article   |    
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation of Fractures of the Radial Head
David Ring, MD; Jaime Quintero, MD; Jesse B. Jupiter, MD
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Investigation performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and Hospital Universitario Clínica San Rafael, Bogota, Colombia
David Ring, MD
Hand and Upper Extremity Service, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, 15 Parkman Street, WACC 525, Boston, MA 02114. E-mail address: dring@partners.org

Jaime Quintero, MD
Departamento de Ortopedia y Traumatologia, Hospital Universitario Clínica San Rafael, Carrera 8 No. 17-45 Sur, Bogotá DC, Colombia

Jesse B. Jupiter, MD
Hand and Upper Extremity Service, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, 15 Parkman Street, WACC 527, Boston, MA 02114

In support of their research or preparation of this manuscript, one or more of the authors received grants or outside funding from the AO Foundation. None of the authors received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated.

A video supplement to this article is available from the Video Journal of Orthopaedics. A video clip is available at the JBJS web site, www.jbjs.org. The Video Journal of Orthopaedics can be contacted at (805) 962-3410, web site: www.vjortho.com.

J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2002 Oct 01;84(10):1811-1815
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Background: The purpose of this retrospective study was to analyze the functional results following open reduction and internal fixation of fractures of the radial head and to determine which fracture patterns are most amenable to this treatment.

Methods: Fifty-six patients in whom an intra-articular fracture of the radial head had been treated with open reduction and internal fixation were evaluated at an average of forty-eight months after injury. Thirty patients had a Mason Type-2 (partial articular) fracture, and twenty-six had a Mason Type-3 (complete articular) fracture. Twenty-seven of the fifty-six fractures were associated with a fracture-dislocation of the forearm or elbow or an injury of the medial collateral ligament. Fifteen of the thirty Type-2 fractures were comminuted. Fourteen of the twenty-six Type-3 fractures consisted of more than three fragments, and twelve consisted of two or three fragments. The result at the final evaluation was judged to be unsatisfactory when there was early failure of fixation or nonunion requiring a second operation to excise the radial head, <100° of forearm rotation, or a fair or poor rating according to the system of Broberg and Morrey.

Results: The result was unsatisfactory for four of the fifteen patients with a comminuted Mason Type-2 fracture of the radial head; all four fractures had been associated with a fracture-dislocation of the forearm or elbow, and all four patients recovered <100° of forearm rotation. Thirteen of the fourteen patients with a Mason Type-3 comminuted fracture with more than three articular fragments had an unsatisfactory result. In contrast, all fifteen patients with an isolated, noncomminuted Type-2 fracture had a satisfactory result. Of the twelve patients with a Type-3 fracture that split the radial head into two or three simple fragments, none had early failure, one had nonunion, and all had an arc of forearm rotation of =100°.

Conclusions: Although current implants and techniques for internal fixation of small articular fractures have made it possible to repair most fractures of the radial head, our data suggest that open reduction and internal fixation is best reserved for minimally comminuted fractures with three or fewer articular fragments. Associated fracture-dislocation of the elbow or forearm may also compromise the long-term result of radial head repair, especially with regard to restoration of forearm rotation.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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    Mark Jackson
    Posted on October 19, 2002
    Poor results after radial head fracture
    University of Bristol

    I was very interested to read the results of a large series of patients with radial head fractures treated by internal fixation. It is my experience to not infrequently find significant damage to the articular surface of the capitellum at operation. Indeed I have found a area of articular cartilage impacted into the radial head fracture. I wonder if the authors have any comment with regard to associated capitellar damage and poor outcome?

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