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05.08.2019 | Trauma Surgery | Ausgabe 12/2019

Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 12/2019

Ex situ reconstruction of comminuted radial head fractures: is it truly worth a try?

Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery > Ausgabe 12/2019
Jens Everding, Michael J. Raschke, Patrick Polgart, Niklas Grüneweller, Dirk Wähnert, Benedikt Schliemann
Wichtige Hinweise
A correction to this article is available online at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00402-019-03330-4.

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Complex radial head fractures are difficult to treat. In cases where stable fixation cannot be achieved, radial head resection or primary arthroplasty are frequently performed. Ex situ reconstruction of comminuted fractures may also be an option. This technique has widely been neglected in the literature, and only two small case series report satisfactory results. The aim of the present case series was to determine the functional and radiological outcomes of ex situ reconstructed Mason III and Mason IV fractures. We expect that the on-table reconstruction of comminuted radial head fractures will lead to bony union with no avascular necrosis in the postoperative course, which will demonstrate that this operative procedure is a reasonable option.

Patients and methods

Two Mason type III and seven Mason type IV fractures (including four Monteggia-like lesions) were reconstructed ex situ. The mean age of the patients was 47 years (range 22–64). The clinical examination included RoM tests, elbow stability tests, and a neurological examination. The functional outcome was assessed with the MEPS and DASH score. The radiographic examination included a.p. and lateral views of the elbow to detect non-unions, inadequacy or loss of reduction, radial head necrosis, heterotopic ossifications and signs of posttraumatic arthritis.


The mean follow-up time was 39 months (range 11–64). The mean MEPS was 82 points (range 15–100), and the mean DASH score was 20 points (range 0–85). All ex situ-reconstructed radial heads survived, and no signs of avascular necrosis were observed. Bony union was achieved in all but one patient who presented with an asymptomatic non-union. Signs of posttraumatic arthritis were found in all patients. With regard to the radial head, neither secondary resection nor arthroplasty had to be performed. All patients returned to their pre-injury occupations.


Ex situ radial head reconstruction can be a reliable option in the surgical treatment of complex radial head fractures associated with severe elbow trauma. Even in the midterm follow-up, no signs of avascular necrosis were observed. Modern implants may even extend the indications for reconstruction in such cases.

Level of evidence

Level IV—retrospective cohort study

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