Outcome of Radial Head Arthroplasty in Comminuted Radial Head Fractures: Short and Midterm Results




Background: Comminuted radial head fractures are often associated with secondary injuries and elbow instability. Objectives: The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate how well the modular metallic radial head implant EVOLVE® prosthesis restores functional range of motion (ROM) and stability of the elbow in acute care. Patients and Methods: Eighty-five patients with comminuted radial head fractures and associated injuries received treatment with an EVOLVE® prosthesis between May 2001 and November 2009. Seventy-five patients were available for follow-up. On average, patients were followed for 41.5 months (33.0: 4.0 - 93.0). Outcome assessment was done on the basis of pain, ROM, strength, radiographic findings, and functional rating scores such as Broberg and Morrey, the Mayo elbow performance index (MEPI), and disabilities of the arm, shoulder and hand (DASH). Our study is currently the largest analysis of clinical outcome of a modular radial head replacement in the literature. Results: Overall, there were 2 (2.7%) Mason II fractures, 21 (28%) Mason III fractures, and 52 (69.3%) Mason IV fractures. Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur osteosynthesefragen (AO) classification was also determined. Of the 85 patients in our study, 75 were available for follow-up. Follow-up averaged 41.5 months (range, 4 - 93 months). Average scores for the cohort were as follows: Morrey, 85.7 (median 90.2; range 44.4 - 100); MEPI, 83.3 (85.0; 40.0 - 100); and DASH 26.1 points (22.5; 0.0 - 75.8). Mean flexion/extension in the affected joint was 125.7°/16.5°/0° in comparison to the noninjured side 138.5°/0°/1.2°. Mean pronation/supination was 70.5°/0°/67.1° in comparison to the noninjured side 83.6°/0°/84.3°. Handgrip strength of the injured compared to the non-injured arm was 78.8%. The following complications were also documented: 58 patients had periprosthetic radioluceny shown to be neither clinically significant nor relevant according to evaluated scores; 26 patients had moderate or severe periarticular ossification, and scored substantially worse according to MEPI and Morrey. Four patients required revisional surgery due to loosening of the prosthesis and chronic pain. In addition, one patient required a neurolysis of the ulnaris nerve, one developed a neobursa, and one had extensive swelling and blistering. The time interval between injury and treatment appeared to have an effect on results. Thirty-five patients were treated within the first 5 days after accident and showed better results than the 40 patients who were treated after 5 days. Conclusions: Comminuted radial head fractures with elbow instability can be treated well with a modular radial head prosthesis, which restores stability in acute treatment. The modular radial head arthroplasty used in this study showed promising findings in short to midterm results.