Topographical Anatomy of the Distal Ulna Attachment of the Radioulnar Ligament

J Hand Surg Am. 2017 Jul;42(7):517-524. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2017.03.031. Epub 2017 Apr 25.


Purpose: The deep component of the distal radioulnar ligament provides translational stability and rotational guidance to the forearm. However, controversy exists regarding the importance of this structure as well as the nature of its attachment to the distal ulna. We aimed to evaluate the topographic anatomy of the distal ulna attachment of both the superficial and the deep components of the radioulnar ligament and to assess the relationship between its internal and its external morphometry.

Methods: Thirteen human distal ulnae attached by ulnar part of the distal radioulnar ligament were scanned using micro-computed tomography and reconstructed in 3 dimensions. In addition, the distal radioulnar ligaments were examined under polarized light microscopy to determine the histological characteristics of collagen contained within the ligaments.

Results: The deep limbs have broad marginal insertions at the fovea, whereas the superficial limbs have a circular and condensed insertion to the ulnar styloid. The center of the deep limb was separated from the base of the ulnar styloid by a mean of 2.0 ± 0.76 mm, and this distance was positively correlated with the width of the ulnar styloid. The mean distance between the center of the ulnar head and the center of the fovea was 2.4 ± 0.58 mm. The proportion of collagen type I was lower in the deep limb than in the superficial limb.

Conclusions: This new observation of the footprint of the radioulnar ligament in the distal ulna indicates that the deep limb may serve as an internal capsular ligament of the distal radioulnar joint, whereas the superficial limb as the external ligament.

Clinical relevance: Knowledge of the topographic anatomy of the radioulnar ligament's attachment to the distal ulna may provide a better understanding of distal radioulnar ligament-related pathologies.

Keywords: Micro-CT; distal radioulnar ligament; footprint; fovea; triangular fibrocartilage complex.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cadaver
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Collagen Type III / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Ligaments, Articular / anatomy & histology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / diagnostic imaging
  • Ligaments, Articular / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radius / anatomy & histology*
  • Radius / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius / metabolism
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ulna / anatomy & histology*
  • Ulna / diagnostic imaging
  • Ulna / metabolism
  • Wrist Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Wrist Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Wrist Joint / metabolism


  • Collagen Type I
  • Collagen Type III