Radial head fracture

Case contributed by Michael Lousick


Elbow pain post fall onto outstretched hand.

Patient Data

Age: 30 years
Gender: Male

Elbow radiographs


Elbow joint effusion and radial head fracture with slight depression of anterior fragments.

Elbow CT (one week later)


There is a comminuted fracture of the anterior half of the radial head. The main radial fragment is compressed inwards approximately 1.7mm. No other fractures are demonstrated. No dislocation. Joint effusion present.

Case Discussion

A clear example of a radial head fracture. The patient underwent a CT of the elbow when he presented to clinic a week later unable to supinate his forearm. However the fracture demonstrated would not likely impair range of motion. He was managed conservatively with physiotherapy and soon regained full range of motion.

Key learning point: In a radial head fracture, always look for an associated fracture of the coronoid process of the ulna which could indicate a 'terrible triad' injury which has been reduced prior to imaging.

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