Functional consequence of distal brachioradialis tendon release: a biomechanical study

J Hand Surg Am. 2013 May;38(5):920-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2013.01.029. Epub 2013 Mar 23.


Purpose: Open reduction and internal fixation of distal radius fractures often necessitates release of the brachioradialis from the radial styloid. However, this common procedure has the potential to decrease elbow flexion strength. To determine the potential morbidity associated with brachioradialis release, we measured the change in elbow torque as a function of incremental release of the brachioradialis insertion footprint.

Methods: In 5 upper extremity cadaveric specimens, we systematically released the brachioradialis tendon from the radius and measured the resultant effect on brachioradialis elbow flexion torque. We defined release distance as the distance between the release point and the tip of the radial styloid.

Results: Brachioradialis elbow flexion torque dropped to 95%, 90%, and 86% of its original value at release distances of 27, 46, and 52 mm, respectively. Importantly, brachioradialis torque remained above 80% of its original value at release distances up to 7 cm.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that release of the brachioradialis tendon from its insertion has minor effects on its ability to transmit force to the distal radius.

Clinical relevance: These data imply that release of the distal brachioradialis tendon during distal radius open reduction internal fixation can be performed without meaningful functional consequences to elbow flexion torque. Even at large release distances, overall elbow flexion torque loss after brachioradialis release would be expected to be less than 5% because of the much larger contributions of the biceps and brachialis. Use of the brachioradialis as a tendon transfer donor should not be limited by concerns of elbow flexion loss, and the tendon could be considered as an autograft donor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Joint / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radius Fractures / surgery*
  • Suture Techniques
  • Tendons / surgery*
  • Torque