Anatomical Basis and Clinical Application of Synovial Flaps in the Wrist and Distal Forearm

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Abstract

Background:

Neuropathic symptoms after median nerve repair at the wrist or secondary to refractory carpal tunnel syndrome may become debilitating. These symptoms develop because of perineural adhesions, intraneural fibrosis, and fixation of the nerve to the transverse carpal ligament after surgery, and often require neurolysis. Interposition of vascularized soft tissue over the median nerve at the time of neurolysis prevents recurrence of such adhesions. The synovial flap, fashioned from the synovial lining of the flexor tendon sheath, is an ideal tissue for this purpose. Previous authors have described the surgical technique of the synovial flap, but the anatomical basis and design of the flap have not been previously discussed.

Methods:

Twenty fresh cadaver upper extremities were injected with Microfil to analyze the arterial anatomy, flap dimensions, and arc of rotation of the flexor tendon synovium mobilized as a flap suitable for coverage of the median nerve at the wrist. The authors determined that both radial and ulnar-based flaps are clinically useful for providing coverage in the wrist and distal forearm. This flap was used in 18 patients with complicated median nerve lesions in this region.

Results:

All patients had an uncomplicated postoperative course. Of 13 patients treated for posttraumatic median nerve neuromas, all but two had significant resolution of symptoms.

Conclusions:

When used as a vascularized flap, the flexor tendon synovium provides adequate protection of the median nerve. Flap dimensions and vascularity of this tissue make it an ideal local flap option when performing reoperative surgery on the median nerve.

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