The effect of prosthetic radial head geometry on the distribution and magnitude of radiocapitellar joint contact pressures

Daniel R. Bachman, Sutee Thaveepunsan, Sangeun Park, James S. Fitzsimmons, Kai Nan An, Shawn W. O'Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Purpose To determine if radiocapitellar contact pressures would be elevated with nonanatomical (circular) prostheses over those mimicking native anatomy and if such pressures would be related to the depth and contour of the articular dish and to the pattern of prosthetic articulation against the lateral trochlear ridge. Methods Three commercially available circular radial head designs were compared with an anatomical radial head and 2 modified anatomical prototype radial head designs in 10 cadaveric specimens. Each prosthesis and specimen combination was loaded in neutral rotation and maximal extension with a custom testing apparatus while measuring contact areas and pressures using thin-film pressure sensors. Results Anatomical radial head prototype 2 had similar radiocapitellar contact areas and mean pressures as the native radial head; all other designs showed significant decreases in contact area and increased mean pressures. Peak contact pressures were also measured and were significantly elevated with all prostheses tested. Anatomical designs are statistically more likely to mimic normal contact with the lateral trochlear ridge and its adjacent sulcus than circular prostheses. They are also significantly less likely to have contact pressures above the 5 MPa threshold that is thought to be harmful to cartilage. The depth of the articular dish had a significant effect on contact area and pressure. Conclusions Commercially available radial head prostheses demonstrated reduced radiocapitellar contact areas and elevated contact pressures during compressive loading. These were significantly greater with symmetrical circular prostheses than with asymmetrical elliptical designs. The prosthesis that best mimicked native contact behavior was the anatomical radial head prototype 2 owing to its design for articulating with the capitellum, the lateral trochlear ridge, and the sulcus between. Clinical relevance Because radial head prostheses have the potential to cause capitellar erosion or arthritic change, those with lower contact pressures may lead to fewer such complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-288
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Radial head
  • biomechanics
  • contact area
  • contact pressure
  • replacement arthroplasty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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