Radial head fractures in young, active patients

Publication Date


Journal Title

Obere Extremitat


© 2020, The Author(s). The radial head is an important stabilizer of the elbow joint. Radial head fractures are commonly associated with additional injuries to the ligamentous structures of the elbow and can significantly compromise elbow stability. Young patients with radial head fractures are more likely to be male and present after a high-energy mechanism of injury. While not perfect, the Mason classification is the most commonly used classification system and can help to guide the management of radial head fractures. Type I fractures are nondisplaced or minimally displaced (less than 2 mm) and are treated nonoperatively with early mobilization. Type II fractures, which are displaced 2–5 mm, can be treated nonoperatively or with open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). Type III fractures are comminuted and are most often treated with ORIF or with radial head arthroplasty (RHA). Treatment of fractures with an associated elbow dislocation (Mason type IV) is also with ORIF or RHA depending on the degree of comminution. For all of these injuries, assessment and treatment of associated ligamentous injuries are necessary in conjunction with treatment of the bony injury. Despite a significant body of literature available on radial head fractures, there is controversy regarding the optimal management of type II, III, and IV fractures, especially in young, active patients. Common complications following radial head fractures include stiffness, instability, and posttraumatic osteoarthritis; as such, these injuries can lead to significant disability in young, active patients if not managed appropriately.

Volume Number




Document Type





School of Medicine

Primary Department

Orthopedic Surgery



For the public and Northwell Health campuses