Functional Outcomes of Fixation Versus Replacement for Comminuted Radial Head Fractures in Adults: A Systematic Review

Lily Li, Akash Patel, Abbas Rashid


Aim: The purpose of this systematic review was to search for and critically appraise articles directly comparing functional outcomes and complications for fixation (ORIF) versus arthroplasty for comminuted radial head fractures (Mason type 3) in adults.

Material and Methods: A comprehensive search of Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases using specific search terms and limits was conducted. Strict eligibility criteria were applied to stringently screen resultant articles. Three comparative studies were identified and reviewed.

Results: Two studies found significantly better functional scores after replacement compared with ORIF in Mason type 3 fractures. The third study found no significant differences in functional score or range of motion, but did find that grip strength was better after ORIF. Complication rates were too heterogenous for conclusion.

Conclusion: Fixation with good reduction may be attempted in unstable Mason type 3 fractures, and arthroplasty may be considered if this is not possible. Further randomised comparative trials are required to clarify the decision-making between fixation and replacement. Functional outcomes and complications were conflicting in the studies included here. Ideally, treatment decision should take into account elbow stability and degree of comminution.


Radial head fractures; Fixation; Arthroplasty; ORIF

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