Purpose: The purpose of this study was to detail the pathomechanics and pathoanatomy of fracture dislocations of the ring finger and small finger carpometacarpal (CMC) joint by duplicating the pathomechanics of the fist blow. Methods: A custom-made jig was used to position 20 fresh-frozen cadaver upper extremities in forearm neutral rotation, 90° of elbow flexion, 20° of wrist extension, and 20° and 30° of flexion at the ring and small finger CMC joint, respectively. First 7.7 kg of weight were dropped from a height of 0.76 m to 1.1 m to axially load the ring and small metacarpal (MC) heads through a custom-made apparatus. Fluoroscopic examination before and after loading, and detailed dissection after loading, were used to identify any osseous and/or ligamentous injuries. Results: The most common fractures were a dorsal capitate fracture and a middle MC dorsal base fracture. The most common combinations of fractures were the dorsal capitate and dorsal hamate fractures. Multiple fractures often were identified in a number of locations including dorsally: the capitate, hamate, and index through small metacarpal bases, and volarly: the hook of the hamate and the middle through the small MC bases. Conclusions: The patterns of injuries encountered at the ring and small CMC joints can be explained by the direction and force of the applied load, position of the CMC joint at the time of loading, and the constraints imposed by specific CMC ligaments. A detailed analysis of the fracture patterns and associated ligament anatomy suggests that the typical ring and small carpometacarpal fracture dislocations are a more complex combination of fractures than identified by plain radiographs alone. The complexity of these injuries is greater than previously recognized and is most likely the result of a combination of axial load and shear stresses resulting in carpal fractures and ligament avulsions as well as fracture dislocations. This study suggests that computed tomography may be the preferred diagnostic imaging method for complete assessment of these injuries.
- Carpometacarpal joint