Dorsal Extrinsic Ligament Injury and Static Scapholunate Diastasis on Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scans

J Hand Surg Am. 2019 Aug;44(8):641-648. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2019.03.003. Epub 2019 Apr 29.


Purpose: Current biomechanical data suggest that static scapholunate (SL) ligament dissociation occurs only when there is loss of competence of the extrinsic ligaments either acutely or with attenuation over time. We aimed to identify whether patients with an SL gap greater than 2 mm demonstrated concomitant dorsal radiocarpal ligament (DRC) and dorsal intercarpal ligament (DIC) ligament changes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that were identified as having an SL ligament tear.

Methods: We included 90 patients who had a posttraumatic MRI scan of the wrist diagnosed with an SL injury. We recorded basic demographics; 2 attending fellowship-trained musculoskeletal radiologists evaluated the integrity of the SL, DRC, and DIC ligaments and graded these as normal, low-grade injury (sprain or partial tear) or full-thickness tear. The association between the integrity of the DRC and DIC ligaments and the presence of a scapholunate gap of 2 mm or greater was analyzed.

Results: A total of 48 patients (53%) had an SL distance of 2 mm or greater on MRI. Of these patients, 28 (58%) had a partial or total tear of the DIC and/or DRC ligament. Compared with patients with an SL interval less than 2 mm, patients with an SL interval 2 mm or greater more often demonstrated DIC signal change (31% vs 12%), DRC signal change (52% vs 14%), or combined or isolated DIC and/or DRC signal change (52% vs 14%).

Conclusions: Dorsal extrinsic ligaments demonstrate MRI signal change suggestive of acute or chronic injury in patients with an SL interval 2 mm or greater more often than in patients with an SL interval less than 2 mm. These results reinforce that MRI findings of SL ligament tear need to be interpreted in a larger context, perhaps with additional attention to the DIC and DRC appearance upon MRI. In addition, MRI evaluation of dorsal extrinsic ligaments may aid in clinical decision-making for patients with SL injury.

Type of study/level of evidence: Diagnostic IV.

Keywords: Extrinsic ligaments; MRI; ligament injury; scapholunate ligament; wrist.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carpal Joints / diagnostic imaging
  • Carpal Joints / injuries
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / diagnostic imaging
  • Ligaments, Articular / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ligaments, Articular / injuries*
  • Lunate Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Lunate Bone / injuries
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Scaphoid Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Scaphoid Bone / injuries
  • Wrist Injuries / diagnostic imaging*