Safety of Releasing the Volar Capsule During Open Treatment of Distal Radius Fractures: An Analysis of the Extrinsic Radiocarpal Ligaments' Contribution to Radiocarpal Stability.
PURPOSE: The contribution of the extrinsic radiocarpal ligaments to carpal stability continues to be studied. Clinically, there is a concern for carpal instability from release of the volar extrinsic ligaments during volar plating of distal radius fractures in which the integrity of the dorsal ligaments may be unknown. The primary hypothesis of this study was that serial sectioning of radiocarpal ligaments would lead to progressive ulnar translation of the carpus. METHODS: We studied the stabilizing roles of the radioscaphocapitate (RSC), short radiolunate (SRL), long radiolunate (LRL), and dorsal radiocarpal (DRC) ligaments. We sequentially sectioned these ligaments in 2 groups of 5 matched pairs and measured the motion of the scaphoid and lunate with the wrist in passive neutral alignment, radial deviation, ulnar deviation, and simulated grip. Displacement of the lunate in the radioulnar plane was used as a surrogate for carpal translation. The groups differed only by the order in which the ligaments were sectioned. RESULTS: In the intact state, the lunate translated ulnarly during simulated grip and radial deviation, whereas radial translation, relative to its position under resting tension, was observed during ulnar deviation. With serial sectioning, the lunate displayed increased ulnar translation in all wrist positions for both groups 1 and 2. The magnitude of ulnar translation exceeded 1 mm after sectioning the LRL plus RSC along with either the DRC or the SRL. CONCLUSIONS: Sectioning of either the DRC or SRL ligaments along with release of the RSC and LRL ligaments leads to notable although minimal (<2 mm) ulnar lunate translation. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Isolated sectioning of individual radiocarpal ligaments, such as for visualization of the articular surface of the distal radius, leads to minimal ulnar translation. Because prior clinical work found no clinical complications after volar capsule release, it is posited that translation less than 2 mm creates subclinical changes in carpal mechanics.
Suazo Gladwin, LA; Douglass, N; Behn, AW; Thio, T; Ruch, DS; Kamal, RN
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