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J Orthop Trauma. 2000 Mar-Apr;14(3):171-7.

Fracture of the radial head with associated elbow dislocation: results of treatment using a floating radial head prosthesis.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery-Traumatology, CHU Sart Tilman, Liège, Belgium.



To assess elbow function, complications, and problems of radial head fractures associated with elbow dislocation receiving surgical treatment with a floating prosthesis.


Prospective clinical study.


University Hospital, Orthopaedic Department, Sart Tilman, Liège, Belgium.


Eleven consecutive adult patients were treated with a floating prosthesis for acute radial head fractures associated with elbow dislocation from January 1994 to September 1996.


The floating radial head prosthesis (Tornier SA, Saint-Ismier, France) was used in all our patients. The implant is in two parts: a radial head made of high-density polyethylene enclosed in a cobalt-chrome cup, which articulates in a semiconstrained manner with the spherical end of a cemented intramedullary stem. The implants were inserted within the first week following the injury (range 2 to 7 days). Three cases also required internal fixation of the coronoid process of the ulna; in one case plate fixation of an olecranon fracture was also performed.


Patients were assessed by physical examination, a functional rating index (Morrey et al.), and radiographs. The parameters evaluated were motion, stability, pain, and grip strength. Potential complications such as infection, prosthetic failure, or dislocation were investigated.


The minimum follow-up time was two years (mean 32 months, range 24 to 56 months). Four patients were considered to have excellent results, four patients were considered to have good results, two patients had fair results, and one patient had a poor result. There were no cases of infection, prosthetic failure, or dislocation. No patient required prosthetic revision.


The basic principle of maintaining anatomic and physiologic relationships applies when deciding on treatment for radial head fractures with associated elbow dislocation. The loss of lateral osseous support will render the elbow grossly unstable. We believe that a floating prosthesis may be indicated in Mason Type III radial head fractures associated with elbow dislocation, especially in the presence of associated destabilizing fractures. Well-controlled comparative randomized studies will be needed to delineate the optimal treatment for a given situation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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