Fracture of the Head of the Radius

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The forearm and wrist are made up of two separate bones called the radius and the ulna. The radius connects the hand to the elbow and the top of the radius, known as the head, inserts into the elbow. If the head of the radius fractures, in contrast to radius and ulna shaft fractures, this is a fracture of the head of the radius.

How is this Fracture caused?

Almost all fractures to the head of the radius are traumatic injuries. The majority of the fractures occur when people place a significant amount of force on an outstretched hand. When people fall, they extend their arms to protect their body. The force travels up the outstretched hand into the elbow and fractures the head of the radius. This can also occur in a car accident when people extend their arms against the dashboard to protect themselves.

Options for Treatment

The treatment is going to depend on the severity of the fracture. Some fractures are so small that they might not even show up on the x-ray, being treated with a simple sling for a few weeks. Severe, comminuted, or open fractures may require significant treatment lasting several weeks to months, possible requiring rehabilitation after traumatic injuries.

Possible Complications of a Radial Head Fracture

There are several complications that could arise, particularly with open fractures that break the skin, which people should be concerned about. In addition to bleeding, infection is a risk when the skin is broken. The skin is the first barrier against infection. A fracture that breaks the skin is a portal of entry for bacteria and viruses.

Other Structures are in Play

If a severe fracture is sustained, fragments of bone can damage blood vessels and nerves in the area. With any radial fracture, the radial nerve is at risk of injury. The radial nerve provides motor and sensory function for various areas of the forearm and hand. If this nerve is injured, the patient may require rehabilitation of peripheral nerve injuries.

Differential Diagnosis

With a radial head fracture, other injuries on the differential diagnosis include:

  • Radial Shaft Fracture
  • Ulna Fracture
  • Radial Head Dislocation
  • Wrist Sprain
  • Nerve Impingement

Prognosis of a Radial Head Fracture

The majority of people heal without any issues, regaining full function of the arm in a matter of weeks. It’s unusual for people to develop any chronic or lasting issues from this injury; however, a fracture that requires surgery will always have a more guarded prognosis.

Surgery May be Required

When the physician orders x-rays, there may be the possibility that other structures could be at risk based on the image. If an x-ray or an MRI reveals a displaced fracture or other damaged structures, surgery could be required to put these structures back together.

Contact an Experienced Bone Fracture Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Bone Fracture Attorney. Patients with bone fractures for any reasons should call my office at (916) 921-6400 for friendly, free advice. I have a toll-free number available at (800) 404-5400.

I am a member of the California Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Our group consists of some of the top injury lawyers in the country. We have won million and/or multiple million-dollar verdicts in prior settlements.

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