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Wrist & Hand

Utility of preoperative MRI for assessing proximal fragment vascularity in scaphoid nonunion

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The benefit of MRI in the preoperative assessment of scaphoid proximal fragment vascularity remains controversial. The purpose of this study is to compare preoperative MRI findings to intraoperative bleeding of the proximal scaphoid.


A retrospective review of 102 patients who underwent surgery for scaphoid nonunion between January 2000 and December 2020 at a single institution were identified. Inclusion criteria were: isolated scaphoid nonunion; preoperative MRI assessing the proximal fragment vascularity; and operative details of the vascularity of the proximal fragment with the tourniquet deflated. MRI results and intraoperative findings were dichotomized as either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the presence of vascularity. A four-fold contingency table was used to analyze the utility of preoperative MRI with 95% confidence intervals. Relative risk was calculated for subgroups to analyze the association between variables and MRI accuracy.


Preoperative MRI identified 55 proximal scaphoid fragments with ischaemia and 47 with vascularized proximal fragments. After the proximal fragment was prepared, the tourniquet was deflated and assessed for bleeding; 63 proximal fragments had no bleeding and 39 demonstrated bleeding. MRI was not reliable or accurate in the assessment of proximal fragment vascularity when compared with intraoperative assessment of bleeding. No patient or MRI factors were identified to have a statistical impact on MRI accuracy.


Current preoperative MRI protocols and diagnostic criteria do not provide a high degree of correlation with observed intraoperative assessment of proximal fragment bleeding. While preoperative MRI may assist in surgical planning, intraoperative assessment remains the best means for assessing proximal fragment vascularity in scaphoid nonunion. Future efforts should focus on the development of objective measures of osseous blood flow that may be performed intraoperatively.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(6):657–662.

Correspondence should be sent to Alexander Y. Shin. E-mail:

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