Long-Term Outcomes of Primary Repair of Chronic Thumb Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries

Thomas Christensen, Shumaila Sarfani, Alexander Y Shin, Sanjeev Kakar
Hand: Official Journal of the American Association for Hand Surgery 2016, 11 (3): 303-309
Background: The purpose of this study is to evaluate long-term outcomes of ligamentous repair rather than reconstruction for chronic thumb ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries. Methods: Patients at least 15-years status-post repair of a chronic (greater than 6 weeks) UCL tear were contacted for clinical evaluation, radiographs, and postoperative outcome questionnaires, including the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, visual analog scale (VAS) pain scale, and study-specific questions. Twelve of 21 (57%) living patients were available for long-term, greater than 15-year follow-up (average 24.5 years, range 16.9-35.6). Results: Eighty-eight percent of patients had some degree of osteoarthritis. Increased age at the time of injury and higher DASH scores were correlated with increased grades of the thumb metacarpophalangeal osteoarthritis. Delay to treatment and VAS pain scores had no correlation with radiographic findings. Conclusions: Repair of a chronic UCL injury with available local tissue appears to be a reasonable alternative to ligament reconstruction, resulting in durable long-term outcomes despite the majority of patients progressing to osteoarthritis.

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