Suture Tape Augmentation of the Thumb Ulnar Collateral Ligament Repair: A Biomechanical Study

J Hand Surg Am. 2018 Sep;43(9):868.e1-868.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2018.02.002. Epub 2018 Mar 16.


Purpose: This study aimed to evaluate and compare the biomechanical strength of repair of the thumb ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) alone and repair augmented with suture tape.

Methods: Twelve fresh-frozen cadaveric specimens (6 matched pairs) had the UCL divided at its attachment on the base of the proximal phalanx and repaired with or without suture tape augmentation. A material testing machine was used to provide valgus stress at a rate of 0.1 mm/s until failure. The maximum load, load at clinical failure, and mode of failure were recorded.

Results: In the specimens with UCL repair augmented with suture tape, the maximum load (46.6 N [SD, 25.6 N]) and load at clinical failure (25.3 N [SD, 18.3 N]) were significantly higher than in the repair-only group (8.02 N [SD, 2.24 N]) and (6.00 N [SD, 2.39 N], respectively).

Conclusions: In this model, thumb UCL repair with suture tape augmentation demonstrated greater maximum and clinical failure loads compared with nonaugmented repair at time 0, that is, without any biological healing.

Clinical relevance: Suture tape augmentation of UCL repair may be valuable in the setting of acute tears by decreasing the time of postoperative cast immobilization and, therefore, allowing for earlier thumb metacarpophalangeal joint motion and overall faster clinical recovery.

Keywords: Thumb; biomechanics; repair; suture tape; ulnar collateral ligament.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Collateral Ligament, Ulnar / injuries*
  • Collateral Ligament, Ulnar / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing*
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Surgical Tape*
  • Suture Anchors
  • Sutures
  • Thumb / surgery