The elbow joint comprises of three main bones – the proximal radius, proximal ulna and the distal humerus. The radial head is the upper part of the radius, one of the two bones that form the forearm. A break, crack or displacement in this part of the elbow joint is termed as the Radial Head Fracture. Such fractures can be classified into categories based on their severity:

Type 1 – These are small fractures or cracks which may not even be visible in X-rays. The bone remains intact and no displacement occurs

Type 2 – May involve slight displacement and a larger part of the bone may have been damaged Type 3- The bone is broken into multiple pieces and is largely displaced. Such injuries are serious and are accompanied by damage to the soft tissues as well as ligaments


  • Direct hit or trauma to the elbow joint
  • Falling on an outstretched hand
  • Sports injury


  • Swelling on the outer part of the elbow
  • Bruising
  • Pain which can be acute
  • Inability to move the arm, wrist or straighten the elbow
  • Visible deformity may occur in case of type 3 fracture
  • Tenderness in the injured part
  • The forearm, hands and fingers may turn pale or numb


  • Detailed physical examination of the injured arm and symptoms
  • The elbow doctor may ask for details regarding the time and mode of injury
  • The doctor may palpate the injured elbow to check for deformity
  • Examination of the arm, wrist and fingers for loss of function or nerve sensation
  • X-ray images may be required to assess the severity and exact location of damage
  • MRI scans may be recommended in case the doctor suspects soft tissue or ligament injury


  • Prescription of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs for immediate relief
  • Application of ice packs during the first 24-48 hours of injury may reduce pain and swelling
  • The injured arms should be rested by keeping it elevated
  • Use of a splint or sling may be recommended for a stipulated time period
  • Avoid moving the injured elbow joint and give it adequate rest
  • Joint aspiration- use of a syringe to drain out excess fluids if they accumulate in or near the joint
  • Surgical intervention may be required to remove bone pieces if they restrict joint movement
  • Screws, wires and plates may be used internally or externally to reposition the displaced bone
  • Surgery may be conducted for soft tissue or ligament damage if detected
  • Surgical replacement with an artificial radial head in case of severe damage
  • Specific range of motion exercises may be recommended to combat stiffness and restore flexibility of the joint

OrthoTexas provides comprehensive treatment for radial head fracture and other elbow problems.