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Wrist & Hand

Predictors for poor outcome for conservatively treated traumatic triangular fibrocartilage complex tears

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The primary aim of this study was to assess if traumatic triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tears can be treated successfully with immobilization alone. Our secondary aims were to identify clinical factors that may predict a poor prognosis.


This was a retrospective analysis of 89 wrists in 88 patients between January 2015 and January 2019. All patients were managed conservatively initially with either a short-arm or above-elbow custom-moulded thermoplastic splint for six weeks. Outcome measures recorded included a visual analogue scale for pain, Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score, and the modified Mayo Wrist Score (MMWS). Patients were considered to have had a poor outcome if their final MMWS was less than 80 points, or if they required eventual surgical intervention. Univariate and logistic regression analyses were used to identify independent predictors for a poor outcome.


In total, 76% of wrists (42/55) treated with an above-elbow splint had a good outcome, compared to only 29% (10/34) with a short-arm splint (p < 0.001). The presence of a complete foveal TFCC tear (p = 0.009) and a dorsally subluxated distal radioulnar joint (DRUJ) (p = 0.032) were significantly associated with a poor outcome on univariate analysis. Sex, age, energy of injury, hand dominance, manual occupation, ulnar variance, and a delay in initial treatment demonstrated no significant association. Multiple logistic regression revealed that short-arm immobilization (p < 0.001) and DRUJ subluxation (p = 0.020) were significant independent predictive factors of an eventual poor outcome.


Nonoperative management of traumatic TFCC injuries with above-elbow immobilization is a viable treatment method, particularly in patients without DRUJ subluxation. Early surgery should be considered for patients with dorsal ulnar subluxation treated with short-arm splints to prevent prolonged morbidity.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(8):1386–1391.

Correspondence should be sent to Bo Liu. E-mail:

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