Radial shortening following a fracture of the proximal radius

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background and purpose: The Essex-Lopresti lesion is thought to be rare, with a varying degree of disruption to forearm stability probable. We describe the range of radial shortening that occurs following a fracture of the proximal radius, as well as the short-term outcome in these patients. Patients and methods Over an 18-month period, we prospectively assessed all patients with a radiographically confirmed proximal radial fracture. Patients noted to have ipsilateral wrist pain at initial presentation underwent bilateral radiography to determine whether there was disruption of the distal radio-ulnar joint suggestive of an Essex-Lopresti lesion. Outcome was assessed after a mean of 6 (1.5-12) months using clinical and radiographic results, including the Mayo elbow score (MES) and the short musculoskeletal function assessment (SMFA) questionnaire. One patient with a Mason type-I fracture was lost to follow-up after initial presentation. Results 60 patients had ipsilateral wrist pain at the initial assessment of 237 proximal radial fractures. Radial shortening of ≥ 2mm (range: 2-4mm) was seen in 22 patients (mean age 48 (19-79) years, 16 females). The most frequent mechanism of injury was a fall from standing height (10/22). 21 fractures were classified as being Mason type-I or type-II, all of which were managed nonoperatively. One Mason type-III fracture underwent acute radial head replacement. Functional outcome was assessed in 21 patients. We found an excellent or good MES in 18 of the 20 patients with a Mason type-I or type-II injury. Interpretation The incidence of the Essex-Lopresti lesion type is possibly under-reported as there is a spectrum of injuries, and subtle disruptions often go unidentified. A full assessment of all patients with a proximal radial fracture is required in order to identify these injuries, and the index of suspicion is raised as the complexity of the fracture increases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-359
Number of pages4
JournalActa Orthopaedica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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