Selective release of the digital extensor hood to reduce intrinsic tightness in tetraplegia

Reinholdt C, Fridén J. J Plast Surg Hand Surg. 2011 Apr;45(2):83-9.

Patients with tetraplegia may have various degrees of spasticity in the hand ranging from a completely clenched fist to reduced control of grip at triggered spasticity. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the functional effect of the distal ulnar intrinsic release procedure to reduce intrinsic tightness. Seventeen patients with tetraplegia (37 fingers) and with prominent intrinsic tightness were operated on for distal intrinsic release with a modification of the procedure to include only the ulnar side of the proximal phalanx. All the patients had more pronounced tightness on the ulnar than on the radial side of the affected finger. Long fingers were consistently the most affected digits. The intrinsic tightness was released completely in all patients and the range of motion (ROM) was improved by 25%, and up to 45% in mild and severe cases, respectively. The good immediate effects of treatment as shown by increased ROM remained intact by 6 months postoperatively. These data suggest that the distal ulnar intrinsic release procedure is a simple and valuable way of reducing intrinsic tightness and improving hand function and grip for patients with intrinsic tightness. This procedure can be added to other procedures such as lengthening and transfer of tendons.