The distal intersection syndrome relates to tenosynovitis of the extensor pollicis longus (EPL) tendon, where it crosses the extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL) and brevis (ECRB) tendons1. It is distinct from intersection syndrome which occurs more proximally in the forearm at the intersection of the first and second extensor compartments.
The crossing of the second extensor compartment is typically located just distal to Lister’s tubercle. The tendon sheaths of the EPL and the ECRB are connected by a communicating foramen2. This is probably why inflammation of the EPL tendon spreads to the second compartment or vice versa.
Attrition is related to a biomechanical pulley effect by Lister’s tubercle (overuse syndrome).
Direct blunt trauma of the EPL tendon.
Distal (not necessarily displaced) radius fracture.
Trauma is the most frequent cause. EPL tenosynovitis usually occurs within 8 weeks, but can still be found years after an injury.
Pain and swelling over Lister’s tubercle.
Less commonly, local crepitus during thumb movements.
Treatment and prognosis
Early operative release is advocated due to a high risk of EPL tendon rupture (drummer boy’s palsy) 3.
On imaging consider
- 1. Parellada AJ, Gopez AG, Morrison WB et-al. Distal intersection tenosynovitis of the wrist: a lesser-known extensor tendinopathy with characteristic MR imaging features. Skeletal Radiol. 2007;36 (3): 203-8. doi:10.1007/s00256-006-0238-6 - Pubmed citation
- 2. Cvitanic OA, Henzie GM, Adham M. Communicating foramen between the tendon sheaths of the extensor carpi radialis brevis and extensor pollicis longus muscles: imaging of cadavers and patients. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2007;189 (5): 1190-7. doi:10.2214/AJR.07.2281 - Pubmed citation
- 3. Denman EE. Rupture of the extensor pollicis longus--a crush injury. Hand. 1979;11 (3): 295-8. - Pubmed citation