What are TFCC Tears?

The triangular fibrocartilaginous complex (TFCC) is a soft tissue structure located on the small (pinky) finger side of the wrist. It is the primary stabilizer of the wrist in pronation and supination (rotation). It also cushions and supports the small bones of the wrist, especially while the hand is gripping. An injury to the TFCC can cause chronic wrist pain, but, fortunately, successful treatment does not depend on the chronicity of the injury, so patients with long-standing pain can often get better.

Symptoms & Causes

TFCC tears cause pain on the “ulnar side” of the wrist, the side opposite the thumb. It sits directly on top of the ulna bone, the small bone in the forearm. The radius rotates around the ulna when you pronate (palm down) or supinate (palm up) the hand. The most common symptom of a TFCC tear is pain and weakness at end range supination, with grip, and when bearing weight on the affected arm. There also can be numbness and tingling radiating toward the small finger.

Treatment

Outcomes for the nonsurgical acute casting of TFCC tears is excellent. Unfortunately, the only patients who are typically seen early enough for this type of treatment are high-level athletes. Surgical treatment for traumatic tears is generally better than degenerative tears. As in most orthopaedic injuries, younger patients do better than older patients. The good news is that it doesn’t matter how long a TFCC has been injured; surgery has been performed on patients who have had tears for more than eight years with excellent results.

Additional Resources

https://asht.org/sites/asht/files/docs/2022/TFCC%202022.pdf
https://www.assh.org/handcare/condition/tfcc-tear