Palmar and digital flexor tendon pulleys

  • Doyle J
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Retinacular structures, called pulleys, maintain the flexor tendons of the hand in constant relationship to the joint axes and promote economy and efficiency in finger flexion. This system is composed of the transverse carpal ligament, the palmar aponeurosis pulley, and the digital flexor pulley system. Of these three components, the digital pulleys are the most critical to finger flexion. In their normal state, these pulley components are ideal in all aspects including configuration and location, which accomodates a 260 degrees arc of motion without impingement and with minimum friction while at the same time using muscle tendon excursion that is well within the natural range of the muscle. An absent pulley results in an increased moment arm and requires increased tendon excursion to produce the same arc of motion. Because muscle excursion is not a limitless factor and is directly proportional to muscle fiber length, the effectiveness of tendon excursion is dependent on maintenance of the critical relationship between pulleys and the adjacent joints. Preservation and reconstruction of this system is based on knowledge of the anatomy and an understanding of the relative functional significance of each component of the system.

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  • James R. Doyle

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