1. Home
  2. Skeleton
  3. Diagnosis
  4. Indications
  5. Treatment

Authors of section


Peter Kloen, David Ring

Executive Editors

Peter Trafton, Michael Baumgaertner

Open all credits

Radial head arthroplasty

1. General considerations

Select the right prosthesis size to avoid over stuffing or under sizing of the radiocapitellar joint which can limit range of motion (too large and/or long prosthesis) or elbow instability (too small and/or short prosthesis).

For comminuted radial neck fractures, determining the correct length of prosthesis may be difficult. Comparison with an x-ray of the opposite (intact) elbow may be helpful for preoperative planning.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Prosthesis size

2. Positioning and approach


This procedure is normally performed with the patient in a supine position for lateral access.

radial head arthroplasty


For this procedure a lateral approach is normally used.

radial head arthroplasty

3. Resection of the proximal radius

Resect radial head and neck fragments

Carefully resect all radial head and neck fragments. Preserve the annular ligament for repair, if possible.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Resection of radial neck

Trim the radial neck

Trim the radial neck to fit the prosthesis with a small rongeur.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Trimming of radial neck

4. Replacement

Opening the medullary canal

Carefully open the medullary canal with an awl to fit the prosthesis stem.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – opening of medullary canal

Sizing of the prosthesis

Reconstruct the radial head and neck with the excised fragments to identify the appropriate diameter and length of prosthesis. If the size of the native radial head is in between available prosthetic sizes, select the smaller one.

Insert the chosen prosthesis. Assess its length and stability.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Sizing of prosthesis

To avoid lengthening and overstuffing of the radiocapitellar joint, or shortening and instability, the prosthesis should fit as follows:

  • The articular surface of the radial head prosthesis should be at the level of, or slightly proximal to the lateral edge of the coronoid articular surface.
  • Check tracking of the prosthesis in flexion, extension, pronation and supination. Check elbow stability. If the elbow is too stiff or too unstable, change the size of the prosthesis accordingly.
  • Check the contralateral wrist with fluoroscopy and compare it to the wrist of the involved arm.
Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Sizing of prosthesis

Ligament repair

If the annular ligament is ruptured, repair it with non-absorbable sutures.

Radial neck replacement arthroplasty – Ligament repair

5. Aftercare following arthroplasty

For aftercare and rehabilitation following arthroplasty please refer to your local protocol.