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The primary aim of this study was to define the standard minimum follow-up required to produce a reliable estimate of the rate of re-operation after radial head arthroplasty (RHA). The secondary objective was to define the leading reasons for re-operation.Four electronic databases, between January 2000 and March 2017 were searched. Articles reporting reasons for re-operation (Group I) and results (Group II) after RHA were included. In Group I, a meta-analysis was performed to obtain the standard minimum follow-up, the mean time to re-operation and the reason for failure. In Group II, the minimum follow-up for each study was compared with the standard minimum follow-up.A total of 40 studies were analysed: three were Group I and included 80 implants and 37 were Group II and included 1192 implants. In Group I, the mean time to re-operation was 1.37 years (0 to 11.25), the standard minimum follow-up was 3.25 years; painful loosening was the main indication for re-operation. In Group II, 33 Group II articles (89.2%) reported a minimum follow-up of < 3.25 years.The literature does not provide a reliable estimate of the rate of re-operation after RHA. The reproducibility of results would be improved by using a minimum follow-up of three years combined with a consensus of the definition of the reasons for failure after RHA.Cite this article:Bone Joint J2017;99-B:1561-70.