Wrist

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 18 Aug 2021

The wrist is a complex synovial joint formed by articulations of the radius, the articular disc of the distal radioulnar joint and the carpal bones.

Somewhat confusingly, the term carpus can be used as a synonym for the wrist joint as a whole, or in a more restricted sense to refer to the eight bones of the wrist (cf. tarsus).

The "wrist joint" is really made up of three separate joints 1:

Movements at the condyloid radiocarpal joint of the wrist include 1:

A greater proportion of the total range (60o) of wrist extension occurs at the radiocarpal joint 1. In contrast, a greater proportion of the total range (80o) of wrist flexion occurs at the midcarpal joint, which is also the primary joint involved in wrist adduction and abduction 2.

The wrist joint has intrinsic and extrinsic stabilizing structures 1,3.

Intrinsic

Extrinsic

A two-layered synovial capsule envelops the radiocarpal joint, attaching proximally to the radius and ulna, and distally to the carpal bones. The joint capsule thickens to form palmar, dorsal and collateral ligaments 1.

Arterial supply of the wrist is via the palmar and dorsal carpal arches 1.

  • dorsal carpal arch
  • palmar carpal arch
    • supplied by palmar carpal branches of the radial and ulnar arteries
    • reinforced by the anterior interosseous artery, alongside penetrating deep branches of the deep palmar arch

Multiple articular branches are derived from several nerves (Hilton's law) 1:

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: normal radiographic anatomy of the wrist
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  • Figure 2: Gray's illustrations
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  • Figure 3: Gray's illustrations
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