Does a Modified Technique to Achieve Arthrodesis of the Wrist After Resection of the Distal Radius and Translocating the Ipsilateral Ulna as a Vascularized Graft to Reconstruct the Defect Improve Grip Strength and Outcomes Scores?

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2021 Jun 1;479(6):1285-1293. doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001604.


Background: Ten years ago, we reported the results of a procedure in which we translocated the ipsilateral ulna as a vascularized autograft to reconstruct defects of the distal radius after tumor resection, with excellent functional results. At that time, wrist arthrodesis was achieved by aligning the translocated ulna with the scapholunate area of the carpus and usually the third metacarpal. This resulted in wrist narrowing. We then wondered if aligning the translocated ulna with the scaphoid and the second metacarpal would result in ulnar deviation and thereby improve grip strength. We believed lateralization would reduce the wrist narrowing that occurs with fusion to the third metacarpal and would make the cosmesis more acceptable. We also modified the incision to dororadial to make the scar less visible and thus improve the cosmesis.

Questions/purposes: (1) Is there an objective improvement in grip strength and functional scores (Musculoskeletal Tumor Society [MSTS] and Mayo wrist) when the translocated ulna is lateralized and the wrist is fused with the translocated ulna and aligned with the second metacarpal versus when the translocated ulna is aligned with the third metacarpal? (2) Did lateralization caused by the wrist fusion aligned with the second metacarpal minimize wrist narrowing as measured by the circumference compared with the fusion aligned with the third metacarpal?

Methods: From 2010 and 2018, we treated 40 patients with distal radius tumors at our institution, 30 of whom had a distal radius enbloc resection. Twenty-eight patients had an ipsilateral ulna translocation and wrist arthrodesis in which the radius and translocated ulna were aligned with either the second (n = 15) or the third (n = 13) metacarpals. Two patients in the second metacarpal group and three patients in the third metacarpal group were lost to follow-up before 24 months after surgery and were excluded. A retrospective analysis of 23 patients (20 with giant cell tumors and three with malignant bone tumors) included a review of radiographs and institutional tumor database for surgical and follow-up records to study oncologic (local disease recurrence), reconstruction (union of osteotomy junctions, implant breakage or graft fracture, and wrist circumference), and functional outcomes (MSTS and Mayo wrist scores and objective grip strength assessment compared with the contralateral side). The results were compared for each study group (second metacarpal versus third metacarpal). There was no difference in the incidence of local recurrence or the time to union between the two groups. There were no implant breakages or graft fractures noted in either group.

Results: Patients in the second metacarpal group lost less grip strength compared with the unoperated side in the third metacarpal group (median 12% [range -30% to 35%] versus median 28% [15% to 42%], difference of medians 16%; p = 0.006). There were no between-group differences in terms of MSTS (median 30 [24 to 30] versus median 26.5 [22 to 30], difference of medians 3.5; p = 0.21) or Mayo wrist scores (median 83 [65 to 100] versus median 72 [50 to 90], difference of medians 11; p = 0.10). The second metacarpal group also had less wrist narrowing as seen from the median difference in circumference between the operated and unoperated wrists (median narrowing 10 mm [3 to 35 mm] in the second metacarpal group versus median 30 mm [15 to 35 mm] in the third metacarpal group, difference of medians 20 mm; p = 0.04).

Conclusion: Wrist arthrodesis after ulna translocation with alignment of the translocated ulna and the second metacarpal provides a functional position with ulnar deviation that offers some improvement in grip strength but no improvement in the MSTS or Mayo scores. Radialization/lateralization of the translocated ulna achieved from the alignment with the second metacarpal decreases the reduction in the wrist circumference and therefore reduces wrist narrowing.

Level of evidence: Level III, therapeutic study.

MeSH terms

  • Arthrodesis / methods*
  • Bone Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Bone Transplantation
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / physiopathology
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / surgery*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteotomy / methods*
  • Radius / surgery
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ulna / transplantation*
  • Wrist / physiopathology
  • Wrist / surgery*