Mechanisms of load transfer in the cadaver forearm: role of the interosseous membrane

K L Markolf, A M Dunbar, K Hannani
Journal of Hand Surgery 2000, 25 (4): 674-82
Forces transmitted through the distal ulna and proximal radius, relative motion between the radial head and capitellum, and measurements of tissue strain and local fiber tension within the central band of the interosseous membrane were recorded as cadaveric forearms were loaded axially through the wrist. With the elbow in valgus alignment (the radial head in direct contact with the capitellum), an average of 93% of force applied to the wrist was transferred directly through the radius to the elbow with no appreciable load transfer through the interosseous membrane. With varus alignment (initial gap between the radial head and capitellum) load applied to the wrist displaced the radius proximally an average of 1.1 mm until radial head contact occurred at a mean applied wrist force of 89.0 N. Proximal displacement of the radius generated strain in the central band of the interosseous membrane and created a more ulnar positive wrist, which in turn increased distal ulnar loading; distal ulnar force averaged 19% and interosseous membrane averaged 54% of applied wrist force. Distal ulnar loading was unaffected by 25 degrees wrist flexion-extension or by 20 degrees of radioulnar deviation. With 40 degrees ulnar deviation, mean distal ulnar forces were 18% and 48% of applied wrist force for valgus and varus elbow alignments, respectively. Mean load-sharing percentages at the wrist and elbow were not significantly different between 222. 5 N and 133.5 N of applied force for any wrist position and were unaffected by the angle of elbow flexion.

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