Flexor carpi ulnaris transfer for radial nerve palsy: functional testing of long-term results

K B Raskin, E F Wilgis
Journal of Hand Surgery 1995, 20 (5): 737-42
Controversy persists over the use of the flexor carpi ulnaris for transfer to the extensor digitorum communis in the treatment of radial nerve palsy. Six patients with complete, irreparable radial nerve palsies were treated in part with the flexor carpi ulnaris to extensor digitorum communis tendon transfer (standard transfers: pronator teres to extensor carpi radialis brevis, flexor carpi ulnaris to extensor digitorum communis, and palmaris longus to the rerouted extensor pollicis longus) and were functionally tested for long-term results. The average follow-up time was 8 years (range, 3-15). A control group was comprised of 10 volunteers of similar demographics. This study evaluates the long-term functional recovery in three categories: range of motion, dynamic power of wrist motion, and functional ability as determined by work simulation techniques. The activities simulated were swinging a hammer, sawing wood, tightening screws, and using pliers. A functional range of motion was maintained in all patients, and the power of wrist motion was sufficient to perform all activities of daily living. The work simulation testing revealed no significant difference between the tendon transfer patients and control group with respect to hand dominance and normal variance. All patients were able to perform the simulated work with the same variance in power as the control group. Despite the obvious anatomic loss, wrist function is not significantly impaired after flexor carpi ulnaris tendon transfer for radial nerve palsy.

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