Acute thumb ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears are common injuries of the thumb in athletes. Thumb UCL repair with suture tape augmentation is a novel procedure that may allow earlier return to play. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the biomechanical characteristics of the thumb after UCL repair with and without suture tape augmentation.
Eight cadaveric thumbs were tested in a custom hand testing system. Varus–valgus kinematics were measured at –10°, 0°, 15°, and 30° of thumb metacarpophalangeal flexion under the following conditions: (1) intact thumb UCL, (2) complete UCL tear (proper and accessory ligaments), (3) UCL repair, and (4) UCL repair with suture tape augmentation. Angular stiffness was also quantified after application of sequentially increasing valgus torque in the intact UCL repair and the UCL repair with suture tape augmentation conditions.
Complete UCL tear increased total varus–valgus angulation at all degrees of thumb metacarpophalangeal flexion. Thumb UCL repair alone and repair with suture tape augmentation decreased total varus–valgus angulation relative to complete UCL tear at all flexion angles. Total varus–valgus angulation was not significantly different from intact results for either the repair alone or the repair with suture tape augmentation at all flexion angles. Repair with suture tape augmentation had significantly higher valgus angular stiffness compared with repair alone but not compared with intact.
Thumb UCL repair with suture tape augmentation is able to restore varus–valgus kinematics after complete UCL tear without over-constraining the joint. In addition, the higher angular stiffness afforded by the suture tape augmentation may allow for earlier rehabilitation after surgery.
Thumb UCL repair with suture tape augmentation may allow earlier return to sport in athletes than with repair alone.
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Published online: November 11, 2019
Accepted: September 25, 2019
Received: February 4, 2019
This study was funded by Arthrex, Inc. who provided cadaveric specimens and implants for this study. The funding source did not play a role in the investigation.
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