Anatomic Considerations and Reconstruction of the Thumb Flexor Pulley System

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Disruption to the flexor pulley system of the thumb is an infrequent but devastating injury that can lead to significant compromise in both strength and function. Acute rupture leads to pain, weakness, reduced range of motion (ROM), and potential bowstringing of the flexor tendons. Conservative treatment with a pulley ring should be considered in all patients. However, failure of conservative treatment and bowstringing of the thumb are indications for operative intervention. Reconstruction of the oblique pulley system can be performed either in situ or using a free palmaris longus graft. Care should be taken to identify the neurovascular bundles to avoid compression during the reconstruction. Conscious sedation protocols augmented by ultrasound-guided sheath blocks allow the patient to actively and strongly contract the flexor pollicis longus tendon intraoperatively to appropriately tension the construct for optimal results. Rehabilitation should be performed in a stepwise manner beginning with early passive ROM, active ROM, and finally strengthening at around 8 weeks postoperative.



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