The radius bone goes from your elbow to your wrist. The radial head is the top of the radial bone, just below your elbow. A fracture is a break in your bone.
The most common cause of a radial head fracture is breaking a fall with an outstretched arm.
You may have pain and swelling for 1 - 2 weeks.
If you have a small fracture and your bones did not move around much, you will likely wear a splint or sling that supports your arm, elbow, and forearm. You will probably need to wear this for at least 2 - 3 weeks.
If your break is more severe, you may need to see a bone doctor (orthopedic surgeon). Some fractures require surgery to:
Depending on how severe your fracture is and on other factors, you may not have full range of motion after you recover. Most fractures heal well in 6 - 8 weeks.
To help with pain and swelling, apply an ice pack to the injured area. Keeping your arm at the level of your heart can also reduce swelling.
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines without a prescription.
Follow the instructions about your sling or splint that your health care provider gave you. Your health care provider will tell you when you can:
Keep your sling or splint dry.
You will also be told when you can remove your sling or splint and begin moving and using your elbow.
Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when you can start playing sports or using your elbow for other activities.
You will likely have a follow-up exam 1 - 3 weeks after your injury.
Call your health care provider if:
Elbow fracture - radial head
Radial head fracture In: Buttaravoli P, ed. Minor Emergencies. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 128.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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