There is evidence to support primary nonoperative management of isolated stable fractures of the radial head, although minimal data exist regarding long-term outcomes. The aim of this study was to report subjective long-term outcomes of isolated stable fractures of the radial head and neck following primary nonoperative management.
From a prospective database of proximal radial fractures, we identified all skeletally mature patients who sustained an isolated stable Mason type-1 or type-2 fracture of the radial head or neck during an eighteen-month period. Inclusion criteria were a confirmed isolated stable fracture of the proximal aspect of the radius, primarily managed nonoperatively. The primary long-term outcome measure was the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score.
The study cohort comprised 100 patients with a mean age of forty-six years (range, seventeen to seventy-nine years). A fall from a standing height accounted for 69% of all injuries. Thirty-five percent of the patients had one or more comorbidities. There were fifty-seven Mason type-1 fractures and forty-three Mason type-2 fractures. At a mean of ten years post injury (range, 8.8 to 10.2 years), the mean DASH score was 5.8 (range, 0 to 67.2) and the mean Oxford Elbow Score (OES) was 46 (range, 14 to 48). Fourteen (14%) of the patients reported stiffness and twenty-four (24%) reported some degree of pain. A worse DASH score was associated with older age (p = 0.002), one or more comorbidities (p = 0.008), increasing socioeconomic deprivation by Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile (p = 0.026), increasing amount of fracture displacement (p = 0.041), and involvement in compensation proceedings (p = 0.006).
Long-term patient-reported outcomes were excellent following the nonoperative management of isolated stable fractures of the radial head or neck. We suggest that routine primary nonoperative management of these fractures provides a satisfactory outcome for the majority of patients, with few patients in our study requiring further intervention for persisting complaints.
Level of evidence:
Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.