Radiocarpal joint

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 14 Oct 2022

The radiocarpal joint is an articulation between the distal radius and the proximal carpal row of the wrist. It is a major synovial joint of the wrist and is an example of a condyloid joint

The joint occurs proximally between the concave surface of the distal end of the radius and the articular disc of the distal radioulnar joint, and distally by the oval shaped convex surface of the proximal carpal row (the scaphoid, lunate and triquetral bones).

Key features of the radiocarpal joint:

The distal radius broadens to possess a large articular surface and has a radial styloid process that usually extends 9-12 mm distal to the articular surface of the ulnar. This results in an ulnar slant and palmar inclination at the radiocarpal joint.

Multiple separate ligaments stabilize the adjacent carpal bones to the distal radius.

  • radial collateral ligament: attach to the styloid process
  • radioscaphocapitate ligament
  • radiolunate ligament
  • radioscapholunate ligament
  • radioscaphoid ligament
  • radiolunate ligament
  • radiotriquetral ligament
  • flexor digitorum superficialis and profundus tendons
  • flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris tendons
  • flexor pollicis longus tendons
  • palmaris longus tendon
  • extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis tendons
  • extensor pollicis longus tendon
  • extensor digitorum tendons
  • extensor indicis tendon
  • extensor digiti minimi tendon
  • extensor carpi ulnaris tendon
  • abductor pollicis longus tendon
  • extensor pollicis brevis tendon

The tendon of the brachioradialis muscle attaches to the styloid process of the distal radius. In turn, it does not pass over the radiocarpal joint.

Ulnar variance refers to the relative positioning of the ulnar and radial articular surfaces at the level of the radiolunate articulation.

  • neutral: same level
  • positive: ulna is distal to the radius
  • negative: ulna is proximal to the radius

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: normal wrist MRI (axial)
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  • Case 1: normal wrist MRI (coronal)
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