Decision-making in the treatment of radial head fractures: Delphi methodology

ASES Elbow Fracture-Dislocation Multicenter Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The treatment of partially displaced radial head fractures is determined not only by the type of fracture but also by patient characteristics such as age, occupation, hand dominance, mechanism of injury, and concomitant injuries and comorbidities. The goal of this study was to employ the Delphi method to achieve consensus on the management of patients with radial head fractures, utilizing the experience of the ASES Elbow Fracture-Dislocation Multicenter Study Group and Mayo Elbow Club surgeons. Methods: The initial survey was sent to participants, which included consent to participate in the study and questions about their experience, knowledge, and interest in participating in the Delphi method. We used both open-ended and category-based questions. The second questionnaire generated 76 variables, and individual questions with mean Likert ratings of <2.0 or >4.0 were deemed significant and merged to form multifactorial clinical scenarios relating to both nonoperative and operative management, respectively. Results: Of the surgeons who responded to the questionnaire, 64% were from the United States, while the remainder were from overseas practices. Years in practice on average were 12.4 years (range, 1-40). Seven of the 76 factors met the criteria of a mean Likert score of <2.0 or >4.0. These factors were as follows: age, block to the range of motion (ROM) after aspiration/injection, crepitation with ROM, tenderness over the distal radioulnar joint and/or interosseous membrane (dorsal forearm), gap and/or displacement >2 mm on imaging, complete loss of contact of the head with the rest of the radius on imaging, and fracture head involvement 30% on imaging. Twenty-two (46%) of the 96 clinical scenarios gained >90% consensus in favor of surgical treatment, whereas 8 (17%) reached >90% consensus in favor of nonoperative treatment. Conclusion: Obtaining expert consensus on the treatment of radial head fractures remains challenging. Certain factors such as gap/displacement ≥2 mm without complete loss of contact, ≥30% head involvement with a block to an ROM regardless of tenderness over distal radioulnar joint or interosseous membrane (dorsal forearm), or crepitation when the patient was <80 years of age led to a recommendation of operative treatment in 100% of the surveyed surgeons. Patients older than 80 years with no block to ROM after aspiration/injection, no crepitation with ROM, and no tenderness on distal radioulnar joint/interosseous membrane (dorsal forearm) were recommended for nonoperative treatment regardless of the size of the radial head involvement on imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-373
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Consensus
  • Delphi method
  • Experts
  • Survey Study
  • radial head fractures
  • survey


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