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HealthInfo Canterbury

Surgery for a broken radial head

radial head surgeryIf you need surgery for your broken radial head, it will be done by an orthopaedic (bone) surgeon.

Exactly what surgery you have will depend on what type of break you have. Your surgeon will talk to you about exactly what it involves, the risks, benefits, and how you are likely to recover.

Your surgery may involve some metal (a plate, screws, or possibly wires) to line up your bones properly and support them while they heal. Occasionally the bone is so shattered that the entire radial head has to be removed. If this happens to you, you may need an artificial radial head inserted to ensure you can move your arm properly.

You will probably spend one to two nights in hospital, and your arm will be in a splint for up to six weeks.

Recovery after surgery

You will need at least two weeks off work after surgery. Exactly how much time you will need off depends on how badly your radial head was broken, whether the break was in the arm you use most (your dominant arm), what your job involves, and whether there are any light duties you can do.

As you recover you'll have regular appointments with your surgeon, and some X-rays to make sure your elbow is healing well. You will also need some physiotherapy to strengthen your arm and get it moving again.

If plates are used, they can sometimes limit how much you can move your arm and may need to be taken out once the break has fully healed. This will mean another operation, usually six to 12 months after the first one. If this happens to you, your surgeon will talk about it with you.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by orthopaedic surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Page created May 2017.


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Review key: HISHI-13267