Operative Management of Unstable Radial Head Fractures in a Young Active Population

Nicholas Kusnezov, Emmanuel Eisenstein, John C. Dunn, Austin Fares*, Justin Mitchell, Kelly Kilcoyne, Brian R. Waterman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Radial head and neck fractures are the most common elbow fracture in the general adult population; however, the optimal treatment for radial head fractures remains a topic of ongoing clinical controversy. The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of return to function, complications, and reoperation following operative management of unstable radial head fractures in a young, active patient population with intense upper extremity demands. Methods: A military health care database was queried for all US military servicemembers undergoing open reduction with internal fixation (ORIF; Current Procedural Terminology [CPT] code: 24665) and radial head arthroplasty (RHA; CPT code: 24666) between 2010 and 2015. All patients with minimum 2-year follow-up were included. Univariate and chi-square analyses were performed to evaluate the association between potential risk factors and the primary outcome measures. Results: A total of 67 ORIF (n = 69 elbows) and 10 RHA patients were included. The average age was 31 ± 8.0 years. At mean follow-up of 3.5 ± 1.1 years, 90% of patients overall were able to return to active military service, 96% of which with unrestricted upper extremity function. Nearly one-third (31.2%) of patients developed at least 1 postoperative complication. RHA has higher overall complication rates (70% vs 48%) when compared with ORIF, but this finding did not reach statistical significance (P =.073). However, RHA had significantly higher rates of implant failure (20% vs 2.9%, P =.0498). Seventeen (21%) individuals required reoperation, 5 of which (6.3%) were revision procedures. Dislocation, coronoid fracture, and concomitant ligamentous repair portended a significantly increased risk of sustaining 1 or more complications (P <.05), while dislocation and requirement for ligamentous repair independently predicted revision surgery (P <.05). Conclusions: Arthroplasty and ORIF are both viable options for treating unstable radial head fractures in a young, athletic population, offering comparable return to function despite increased complications with RHA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-480
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • complications
  • functional outcomes
  • open reduction with internal fixation
  • radial head arthroplasty
  • radial head fracture
  • reoperation


Dive into the research topics of 'Operative Management of Unstable Radial Head Fractures in a Young Active Population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this