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Radial Head Fracture Classification

Type I radial head fracture image  Type I
  • <2mm displacement, or marginal lip fracture
  • No mechanical block to rotation
  • Treatment: Posterior splint for 1 week followed by early active range of motion.
  • Consider hematoma aspiration and local anesthetic injection to fully assess ROM if evaluation is limited by pain.
  • Consider static progressive nightime extension splinting if a flexion contracture is present 6 weeks after injury.
  • (Liow RY, Injury 2002;33:801)
type II radial head fracture image Type II
  • >2mm displacement, amendable to fixation
  • May have mechanical block to motion
  • Treatment: examination under anesthesia. IF mechanical block to motion, or joint instability or displacement >3mm=Radial Head Fracture ORIF; if stable, <3mm displaced with full ROM nonop treatment indicated.
  • 82% of patients are asymptomatic at 19yrs with non-op treatment (Akesson T, JBJS 2006;88A:1909).
  • Determination of Type II or Type III fracture type can often only be made intraoperatively.
  • Have radial head replacement available.
Type III Radial head fracture Type III
  • Displaced, severely comminuted
  • Not amendable to fixation
  • Treatment: Radial Head Excision (Herbertsson P, JBJS 2004;86A:1925) vs Radial Head Replacement (Moro JK, JBJS 2001;83A:1201).
  • Excision alone is contraindicated when either medial collateral ligament or interosseous membrane disruption is present. Either replacement or reconstruction is indicated in these cases. 
  • If distal ulnar instability is present, it is best to pin the ulna to the radius with the forearm in supination
type IV radial head fracture Type IV
  • Same as type III with associated elbow dislocation.

See Also:


Other Classifications:

Mason Classification

  • Type I=undisplaced=best prognosis.  Immobilization for 1wk followed by an active ROM program beginning within 1wk to minimize long-term stiffness. (Weseley Ms, JOT 1983;23:36).
  • Type II=displaced wedge fragments= best indication for surgery.
  • Type III-comminuted=internal fixation should not be done in an individual older than 50 yrs, in an isolated injury, or in a fracture that is too comminuted to be fixed

AO Classification


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