Radial head fracture

Case contributed by A.Prof Frank Gaillard


Fall onto outstretched hands.

Patient Data

Age: 35 years
Gender: Male

Right elbow x-rays

A sizable joint effusion indicates a probable fracture, most likely through the radial head.  The fracture itself is not clearly visualized.  Suggest re x ray in 7to 10 days.

Annotated image

The anterior fat pad sign, also known as the sail sign or spinnaker sign is the result of a joint effusion (yellow) elevating the normal anterior fat pad up and out of its normal location in the concavity of the humerus, which takes on a triangular shape (blue) on lateral projection.  


Right elbow x-rays - 10 days later

Radial head fracture is now visible (best seen on oblique view) with a persistent small effusion. 

Annotated image

Persistent sail sign (blue). Cortical breach on the anterior aspect of the radial head is now visible. Articular fracture is presumably present but is undisplaced and occult.

Case Discussion

Importance of recognizing a joint effusion as a marker of undisplaced radial head fracture. 

PlayAdd to Share

Case information

rID: 18084
Published: 7th Jun 2012
Last edited: 14th Aug 2019
Inclusion in quiz mode: Included

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.