Scientific article| Volume 42, ISSUE 12, P1029.e1-1029.e8, December 2017

Dorsoradial Instability of the Thumb Metacarpophalangeal Joint: A Biomechanical Investigation

Published:August 11, 2017DOI:


      To define the role of the dorsal capsule and associated dorsal fibrocartilage (DFC) and their interactions with the radial collateral ligament (RCL) as a thumb metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint stabilizer.


      Eight cadaveric thumbs were mounted onto a custom jig with 20 N of muscle load applied. The thumb position in space was digitized to measure ulnar-radial, pronation-supination, and volar-dorsal laxity at 0°, 30°, and 60° MCP joint flexion. Serial sectioning was performed and measurements were repeated for the intact state, proper RCL insufficiency, proper and accessory (complete) RCL insufficiency, complete RCL with 50% DFC (radial) insufficiency, and complete RCL with complete DFC insufficiency.


      Ulnar-radial deviation, pronation-supination, and volar-dorsal translation significantly changed at 30° and 60° MCP joint flexion when comparing complete RCL insufficiency with complete RCL with 50% DFC insufficiency. At 30° flexion, significant increases were found in ulnar deviation, pronation, and volar translation, and there was a decrease in supination. At 60° flexion, ulnar deviation, pronation, and volar translation increased and radial deviation decreased significantly. At 30° flexion, the resting position significantly pronated and translated volarly. At 60° flexion, the resting position significantly shifted ulnarly, pronated, and translated volarly.


      The DFC acts as a secondary stabilizer of the thumb MCP joint, working in tandem with the RCL. It acts by stabilizing the MCP joint dorsoradially when external forces are applied across the joint. This cadaveric study shows that RCL insufficiency with a concomitant DFC injury is less likely to be stable than RCL injuries alone, and that this effect is more pronounced with MCP joint flexion.

      Clinical relevance

      Increasing incompetence of the secondary stabilizers of the RCL, such as the DFC, will likely result in increased clinical instability upon physical examination. The results of this study also suggest the need to consider repair of the DFC at the time of RCL repair.

      Key words

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