Scientific Article|Articles in Press

Articular Involvement with Retrograde Headless Compression Screw Fixation of the Metacarpal


      Retrograde headless compression screw (RHCS) fixation for metacarpal fractures can lead to metacarpal head articular cartilage violation. This study aimed to quantify the articular surface loss after insertion of the RHCS and determine the functional range of motion (ROM) of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint at the point of contact between the proximal phalangeal (P1) base and the articular defect.


      Ten fresh-frozen cadaveric hand specimens were analyzed for prefixation MCP joint ROM. After screw insertion, the ROM at which the dorsal portion of the P1 base begins to engage the screw tract defect, as well as the ROM at which the midsagittal portion of the P1 bisector engages the screw tract defect, was recorded. The distal axial articular surface of the metacarpal and the defects from screw insertion were measured using a digital image software program.


      Nine men and one woman (mean age, 69 years) were examined. The prefixation mean extension-flexion arc for all MCP joints ranged from 1° to 85°. After screw insertion, the mean MCP ROM at which the dorsal P1 articular surface first engaged the screw tract was 31°. Only 7 digits had screw tract engagement with the midsagittal bisector of the P1 base at a mean flexion angle of −18° (18° hyperextension). Mean articular surface violation increased from the index finger moving ulnarly, with an average of 3.9% involvement.


      Articular surface loss of the metacarpal head following RHCS insertion is negligible in a cadaveric model, with minimal engagement between the corresponding defect and the P1 base during functional ROM.

      Clinical relevance

      Retrograde headless compression screw fixation of metacarpals inevitably damages the cartilage. However, the actual defect is small in proportion to the articular surface area and not engaged during functional activity. These biomechanical features may mitigate the surgeon’s concern about joint destruction, while ensuring the benefits of early rehabilitation and minimal invasiveness of this technique.

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