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Upper Limb

Comminuted fractures of the radial head and neck


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Mason type III fractures of the radial head are treated by open reduction and internal fixation, resection or prosthetic joint replacement. When internal fixation is performed, fixation of the radial head to the shaft is difficult and implant-related complications are common. Furthermore, problems of devascularisation of the radial head can result from fixation of the plate to the radial neck.

In a small retrospective study, the treatment of Mason type III fractures with fixation of the radial neck in 13 cases (group 2) was compared with 12 cases where no fixation was performed (group 1). The mean clinical and radiological follow-up was four years (1 to 9). The Broberg-Morrey index showed excellent results in both groups. Degenerative radiological changes were seen more frequently in group 2, and removal of the implant was necessary in seven of 13 cases.

Post-operative evaluation of these two different techniques revealed similar ranges of movement and functional scores. We propose that anatomical reconstruction of the radial head without metalwork fixation to the neck is preferable, and the outcome is the same as that achieved with the conventional technique. In addition degenerative changes of the elbow joint may develop less frequently, and implant removal is not necessary.

Correspondence should be sent to Professor M. Beck; e-mail: martin.beck@ksl.ch

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