Radial Head Fracture Surgery

  1. Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): In this procedure, the surgeon uses special screws and plates to hold the fractured bone together. The surgeon first makes an incision over the elbow to expose the radial head. The bone fragments are then meticulously repositioned into their normal alignment and held in place with screws and plates.
  2. Radial Head Replacement: If the fracture is severe and the radial head cannot be repaired, it may be replaced. A prosthetic radial head is used to replace the damaged one. The prosthetic is made of metal and is designed to fit the anatomy of your elbow. The surgeon removes the fractured bone and inserts the prosthetic in its place.
  3. Arthroscopic Surgery: For less severe fractures, arthroscopic surgery may be an option. This minimally invasive procedure involves the surgeon making small incisions and using a camera and small instruments to fix the fracture. This method reduces recovery time and the risk of complications.

Expected Surgery Outcome

The primary goal of these surgeries is to restore function and eliminate pain in the elbow. The majority of patients can expect a significant improvement in pain and movement after recovery. Depending on the severity of the fracture and the type of surgery performed, most patients can expect to return to normal activities within 3 to 6 months.

Potential surgery complications and risks

Complications, although rare, can occur. These may include infection, nerve injury leading to weakness or numbness, and complications related to the implants such as loosening or breakage.

Risks

  • Infection: All surgeries carry a risk of infection, which can lead to more serious complications if not treated promptly.
  • Nerve Damage: There is a risk of damage to the nerves near the elbow, resulting in numbness or weakness.
  • Implant complications: The screws, plates, or prosthesis used in the surgery might loosen or break over time, requiring additional surgery.
  • Stiffness: The elbow may become stiff and lose some range of motion after surgery.

Recovery after surgery

Following surgery, you will likely wear a splint or cast for 1 to 2 weeks to protect the repair. Physiotherapy will begin as soon as the doctor recommends. This could be as soon as a few days after surgery for some patients, or a few weeks for others. Strengthening exercises may start a few weeks after the surgery and continue up to six months. Full recovery, including return to heavy manual work or sports, generally takes 3 to 6 months.