Editor’s Choice| Volume 45, ISSUE 11, P1012-1021, November 2020

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In Vivo Mechanical Function of the Distal Radial Ulnar Ligaments During Rotation of the Wrist

Published:August 12, 2020DOI:


      The purpose of this study was to investigate changes in length of the volar and dorsal radioulnar ligaments (VRULs and DRULs), and the distal radioulnar joint (DRUJ) space during unweighted and weighted rotation of the wrist using magnetic resonance imaging and biplanar fluoroscopy.


      Fourteen wrists in 7 normal adult volunteers were imaged to define the 3-dimensional geometry of the DRUJ and the insertion sites of the superficial and deep bundles of the VRULs and DRULs. Subjects were imaged at 10 positions of forearm rotation ranging from full pronation to full supination, with or without a 5-pound weight. Lengths of the superficial and deep VRUL and DRUL bundles and DRUJ space were measured (in millimeters) at each position to evaluate ligament function and DRUJ stability.


      In the unweighted and weighted trials, maximal elongation of both deep and superficial VRUL bundles occurred in supination and maximal lengths of the deep and superficial DRUL bundles occurred in pronation. Maximum DRUJ space occurred during pronation and a minimum occurred in 30° of supination. In weighted trials, there was a significant increase in deep and superficial VRUL bundle length at positions between 30° of pronation and 30° of supination; however, there was no effect of weight on DRULs length. In weighted trials, there was a significant increase in DRUJ space at positions between full pronation and 15° of supination.


      This study demonstrates elongation of the VRULs in supination and the DRULs in pronation. There was no evidence of reciprocal loading of superficial/deep ligament bundles on either the dorsal or the volar aspects of the DRUJ. The effect of loading the wrist during rotation was apparent primarily in the VRULs, but not the DRULs. The DRUJ space was lowest at approximately 30° of supination.

      Clinical relevance

      These results add information to the literature regarding the complicated biomechanics of the triangular fibrocartilage complex and DRUJ. Future work should evaluate changes in biomechanics caused by triangular fibrocartilage complex tears to determine how tear severity and location relate to clinical symptoms.

      Key words

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