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J Hand Surg Eur Vol. 2017 May;42(4):405-414. doi: 10.1177/1753193416687479. Epub 2017 Jan 30.

Classification of ulnar triangular fibrocartilage complex tears. A treatment algorithm for Palmer type IB tears.

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1 Fenice Hand Surgery, Policlinico "San Giorgio", Pordenone, Italy.
2 Hand Surgery Unit, Casa di Cura 'Giovanni XXIII', Treviso, Italy.
3 Rimini Hand Surgery and Rehabilitation Center, Rimini, Italy.
4 Department of Orthopaedics, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.


The classical definition of 'Palmer Type IB' triangular fibrocartilage complex tear, includes a spectrum of clinical conditions. This review highlights the clinical and arthroscopic criteria that enable us to categorize five classes on a treatment-oriented classification system of triangular fibrocartilage complex peripheral tears. Class 1 lesions represent isolated tears of the distal triangular fibrocartilage complex without distal radio-ulnar joint instability and are amenable to arthroscopic suture. Class 2 tears include rupture of both the distal triangular fibrocartilage complex and proximal attachments of the triangular fibrocartilage complex to the fovea. Class 3 tears constitute isolated ruptures of the proximal attachment of the triangular fibrocartilage complex to the fovea; they are not visible at radio-carpal arthroscopy. Both Class 2 and Class 3 tears are diagnosed with a positive hook test and are typically associated with distal radio-ulnar joint instability. If required, treatment is through reattachment of the distal radio-ulnar ligament insertions to the fovea. Class 4 lesions are irreparable tears due to the size of the defect or to poor tissue quality and, if required, treatment is through distal radio-ulnar ligament reconstruction with tendon graft. Class 5 tears are associated with distal radio-ulnar joint arthritis and can only be treated with salvage procedures. This subdivision of type IB triangular fibrocartilage complex tear provides more insights in the pathomechanics and treatment strategies.




Triangular fibrocartilage complex; arthroscopy; distal radio-ulnar joint; distal radio-ulnar joint instability; treatment algorithm; triangular fibrocartilage; wrist

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