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Elbow Fracture: Radial Head

(En español, presione aquí)

 What is a radial head fracture?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I take care of myself?
 How can I help prevent a broken elbow?

Elbow Fracture, Radial Head: Illustration
Elbow Fracture, Radial Head: IllustrationClick here to view a full size picture.

What is a radial head fracture?

A radial head fracture is break in the part of the elbow at the end of the lower arm bone. The break may be just a bend or small crack in the bone, or the bone may break into pieces or shatter. Some fractures may stick out through the skin.

What is the cause?

A broken elbow is usually caused by a fall or a direct hit to the elbow. A fracture may also be the result of a medical condition that causes weak or brittle bones.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how the injury happened. Your provider will examine you. Tests may include:

How is it treated?

The treatment depends on the type of fracture.

With treatment, the fracture may take up to several months to heal. You may need to do special exercises to help your arm get stronger and more flexible. Ask your healthcare provider about this.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Also:

Ask your healthcare provider:

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a broken elbow?

Most broken elbows are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. Be careful when you walk or exercise. Knee pads, elbow pads, and a helmet can help prevent injuries during activities like biking, rollerblading, or skateboarding.

healthinformatics info

Reference Sources:

DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 2nd ed, 2002.

Greene, Walter B., M.D., Griffin, Letha Y. (Ed), Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, Amer Academy of Orthopaedic, 2005.

Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Allen Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 5th ed, 2007.

Mellion, Morris B., W. Michael Walsh, Christopher Madden, Margot Putukian, and Guy L. Shelton, The Team Physician's Handbook, Hanley & Belfus; 3 ed, 2001.

Micheli, Lyle J. and Mark Jenkins, The Sports Medicine Bible: Prevent, Detect, and Treat Your Sports Injuries Through the Latest Medical Techniques, HarperCollins, 1995.


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Last Modified: 2012-09-04

Last Reviewed: 2012-01-02

Website Updated: March 2014

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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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