Evaluation of midcarpal capitate contact mechanics in normal, injured and post-operative wrists

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Scapholunate ligament injury is a commonly occurring carpal ligament injury. Pathology associated with scapholunate ligament injury depends on several factors such as the time after injury, type of injury (instability) and the development of osteoarthritis. The aim of this study was to investigate and compare contact mechanics in the lunocapitate and scaphocapitate joints in the normal, injured (scapholunate dissociation) and repaired (postoperative) wrist.


Four human subjects with scapholunate ligament dissociation participated in this study. MR images of normal (contralateral), injured and postoperative wrists were obtained during relaxed condition and during active light grasp. Relaxed MR images were used to construct model geometry (bones with cartilage) for the capitate, lunate and scaphoid. Kinematic transformations were obtained by using image registration between the unloaded and functionally loaded image sets. Joint surface contact mechanics were then calculated.


All contact measures (contact force, pressure, mean pressure and area) tended to increase with injury in both articulations. A significantly higher contact area was found in the injured scaphocapitate joint compared to normal. A significant increase in peak pressure was observed in the postoperative state compared to normal.


Injury to the scapholunate ligament increased contact measures, suggesting a risk for onset of osteoarthritis in both the scaphocapitate and lunocapitate joints. Surgical repair appeared to restore most measures of contact mechanics to near normal values, more so for the lunocapitate joint when compared to scaphocapitate joint. The elevated postoperative peak pressures indicate the difficulty to fully restore joint mechanics.

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