Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 139, Issue 12, pp 1723–1729 | Cite as

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

  • Jens EverdingEmail author
  • Michael J. Raschke
  • Patrick Polgart
  • Niklas Grüneweller
  • Dirk Wähnert
  • Benedikt Schliemann
Trauma Surgery



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


Radial head fracture Mason III and IV On-table reconstruction Ex situ reconstruction Radial head arthroplasty 



There is no funding source.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the local IRB and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Trauma, Hand and Reconstructive SurgeryUniversity Hospital MünsterMunsterGermany

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