Radial head and neck fractures: Functional results and predictors of outcome

Andrew D. Duckworth*, Bruce S. Watson, Elizabeth M. Will, Brad A. Petrisor, Phil J. Walmsley, Charles M. Court-Brown, Margaret M. McQueen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to determine the functional outcomes and predictive factors of radial head and neck fractures. 

METHODS: Over an 18-month period, we performed a prospective study of 237 consecutive patients with a radiographically confirmed proximal radial fracture (156 radial head and 81 radial neck). Follow-up was carried out over a 1-year period using clinical and radiologic assessment, including the Mayo Elbow Score (MES). Multivariate regression analysis was used to determine significant predictors of outcome according to the MES. 

RESULTS: Of the 237 patients enrolled in the study, 201 (84.8%) attended for review, with a mean age of 44 years (range, 16-83 years; standard deviation, 17.3). One hundred eighty-seven (93%) patients achieved excellent or good MESs. The mean MES for Mason type-I (n = 103) and type-II (n = 82) fractures was excellent, with only two patients undergoing surgical intervention. For Mason type-III (n = 11) and type-IV (n = 5) fractures, the flexion arc, forearm rotation arc, and MES in the nonoperatively treated patients were not significantly different (all p ≥ 0.05) from those managed operatively. Regression analysis revealed that increasing age, increasing fracture complexity according to the AO-OTA classification, increasing radiographic comminution, and operative treatment choice were independently significant predictors of a poorer outcome (all p <0.05). 

CONCLUSIONS: A majority of radial head and neck fractures can be treated nonoperatively, achieving excellent or good results. Age, fracture classification, radiographic comminution, and treatment choice are important factors that determine recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-648
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Functional outcome
  • Outcome predictors
  • Radial head fractures
  • Radial neck fractures


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