Julian Carlo, MD - Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon

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a diagram explaining TFCC tears


What is it?

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is a cartilage structure in the wrist. It resides on the ulnar side, or small finger side, of the wrist and joins the radius and the ulna, the two bones of the forearm, together at the level of the wrist. This structure helps stabilize the joint and coordinate the motion of the joint while cushioning the wrist bones from the forearm bones.

A TFCC tear occurs when there is an injury to this cartilage structure. These injuries are categorized as traumatic or degenerative, depending on their etiology.

What are the symptoms?

TFCC tears cause pain and swelling over the ulnar, or pinky side of the wrist.

How are they treated?

If the wrist or forearm is rendered grossly unstable because of the tear, then surgery is indicated to repair the TFCC. Otherwise, immobilization is indicated for traumatic and degenerative tears. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, injections, and therapy may also be indicated. If ~3 months of conservative treatment does not improve symptoms, then surgery is indicated. Depending on the nature and chronicity of the tear, a debridement, or a “clean-up” procedure may be done. Here, the unstable tear edges are trimmed back to stable borders.  In other cases, a repair of the tear can be performed arthroscopically.

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