A radial head fracture involves damage in a region of the elbow at the endpoint of the inferior arm bone. The damage might be a minor bend or miniature break in the bone or it might shatter into fragments. In some cases, the bone might pierce out of the skin.
The injury is typically due to a fall or sustaining a direct strike on the elbow. In some cases, the fracture might be due to a medical condition that leads to weakened or brittle bones.
What are the indications?
The usual signs of a radial head fracture include:
- Swelling, achiness, bruising or tenderness that occurs after the injury, typically on the thumb side of the elbow
- Deformed appearance of the elbow
- Pain or discomfort if the injured area is touched
- A site in the elbow or forearm is pale, cold or numb
- Discomfort or swelling that prevents bending or utilizing the arm
Management of a radial head fracture
The treatment is based on the type of fracture such as:
- In case there is an open wound with the radial head fracture, treatment is aimed on controlling the bleeding or lowering the risk for infection.
- For a simple type of fracture, a sling or splint must be used for a few days to limit movement of the elbow as it heals.
- For a severe fracture, the arm should not be moved for a longer period and might requires a cast. If a cast is placed, make sure that it is kept dry. Avoid scratching the skin bordering the cast or inserting any objects down the cast.
- In some cases, surgery might be required to restore the bones into the right position.
With proper treatment, a radial head fracture might take several months to recuperate. Special exercises might be required to strengthen and keep the affected arm flexible.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a radial head fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn how this type of fracture is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Ottawa First Aid.