The sail sign on an elbow radiograph describes the elevation of the anterior fat pad to create a silhouette similar to a billowing spinnaker sail from a boat. It indicates the presence of an elbow joint effusion.
The anterior fat pad is usually concealed within the coronoid fossa or seen paralleling the anterior humeral line. When there is a joint effusion, the anterior fat pad (which is intra-articular, but extra-synovial) becomes elevated.
Elevation of the anterior fat pad usually heralds the presence of an intra-articular fracture. In adults, this is usually a radial head fracture whereas in children, the commonest cause of a raised elbow fat pad is a supracondylar fracture.
Where a fat pad is raised and no fracture is demonstrated, an occult fracture should be suspected.
- 1. Helms CA. Fundamentals of skeletal radiology. W B Saunders Co. (2005) ISBN:0721605702. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 2. Pretorius ES, Solomon JA, Katz DS. Radiology secrets. Mosby Inc. (2006) ISBN:0323034055. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 3. Brant WE, Helms CA. Fundamentals of diagnostic radiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (2007) ISBN:0781765188. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
Synonyms & Alternative Spellings
|Synonyms or Alternative Spelling||Include in Listings?|
|Sail sign - elbow||✗|
|Elbow sail sign||✗|
|Sail sign of elbow||✗|