Distal intersection syndrome

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.

Aetiology

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.

Predisposing factors
Symptoms

Pain and swelling over Lister’s tubercle.
Less commonly, local crepitus during thumb movements.

Early operative release is advocated due to a high risk of EPL tendon rupture (drummer boy’s palsy) 3.

On imaging consider

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Article Information

rID: 14205
Section: Signs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • EPL tenosynovitis

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