The elbow is a complex joint formed by the junction of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the two forearm bones (radius and ulna). Situated on the thumb side of the arm and slightly shorter than the ulna, the radius rotates to allow the hand to pivot at the wrist. Radial head fractures are common injuries that frequently occur when the arm is outstretched and used to break a fall. The resulting force can travel up the forearm and break the radius at its head near the elbow.
Minor radial head fractures are usually treated conservatively with rest and arm immobilization in a cast or splint. Alternatively, the broken bone may be surgically set and stabilized with implants (an internal fixation). On the other hand, radial head replacement surgery may be considered to repair a bone that has broken into multiple pieces or has fully dislocated from the elbow joint.
What Does a Radial Head Replacement Involve?
When performing a radial head replacement, the surgeon makes an incision on the side of the elbow, then carefully removes any bone fragments. To prepare the radius to receive the prosthesis, the surgeon trims the radial neck and hollows out the central cavity of the radial body. The surgeon then inserts the prosthesis into the bone and tests it for stability, tracking how it performs with various arm movements. Finally, the surgeon cements the prosthesis in place and closes the incision.
After a radial head replacement procedure, the arm is immobilized in a splint for several weeks. During the healing process, progressive stretching and strengthening exercises may be performed to help prevent stiffness and improve the arm’s range of motion.
A Top Elbow Surgeon in Pittsburgh
Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and elbow specialist who performs radial head replacement and other elbow procedures in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lauded as an expert among experts, Dr. Schmidt regularly receives complex case referrals from his peers. If you’d like to talk with Dr. Schmidt, contact his office to set up a consultation at one of his three locations in the Pittsburgh, PA, area.
Your Premiere Choice for Shoulder & Elbow Surgery