Biomechanical Properties of First Dorsal Extensor Compartment Regarding Adequacy as a Bone-Ligament-Bone Graft

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Bone-ligament-bone grafts for reconstruction of the scapholunate ligament are a valuable tool to prevent disease progression to carpal collapse. Locally available grafts do not require an additional donor site. The first extensor compartment was evaluated biomechanically regarding its possible use as an autograft.


Twelve native fresh-frozen, human cadaver specimens were tested by applying axial tension in a Zwick Roell machine. Load to failure, transplant elongation, and bony avulsion were recorded. The load to failure was quantitated in newtons (N) and the displacement in length (millimeters). Parameters were set at distinct points as start of tension, 1 mm stretch and 1.5 mm dissociation, failure and complete tear, and were evaluated under magnified visual control. Although actual failure occurred at higher tension, functional failure was defined at a stretch of 1.5 mm.


Mean load at 1 mm elongation was 44.1 ± 28 N and at 1.5 mm elongation 57.5 ± 42 N. Failure occurred at 111 ± 83.1 N. No avulsion of the bony insertion was observed. Half the transplants failed in the central part of the ligament, while the rest failed near the insertion but not at the insertion itself. Analysis of tension strength displayed a wide range from 3.8 to 83.7 N/mm at a mean of 33.4 ± 28.4 N/mm.


The biomechanical tensile properties of the first dorsal extensor compartment are similar to those of the dorsal part of the scapholunate ligament. A transplant with a larger bone stock and a longer ligament may display an advantage, as insertion is possible in the dorsal, easily accessible part of the carpal bones rather than in the arête-like region adjacent to the insertion of the scapholunate ligament. In this study, 1.5 mm lengthening of the bone–ligament–bone transplant was defined as clinical failure, as such elongation will cause severe gapping and is considered as failure of the transplant.

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