TFCC Tears And Treatments

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) consists of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage which help in wrist movements. An injured TFCC complex requires treatment. Most TFCC complex injuries are treated conservatively, but sometimes surgery is necessary. The consideration of surgery depends on the response to non-surgical treatments and the symptoms present.

Two reasons for tears

There are two main causes of a TFCC tear. The first is an injury that leads to falling on the hand, which is classified as type 1. The second cause involves degeneration, where the cartilage in the area wears down. This is known as type 2. Athletes, people over the age of 50, and those with a previous injury to the wrist are prone to getting TFCC injuries.

Symptoms of a TFCC injury

Degenerative tears usually do not have any symptoms. A TFCC tear due to a fall injury presents with symptoms such as pain, swelling, tenderness, and weakness. There will be a clicking sound while attempting to move the wrist and decreased ability to grasp objects. Reduced range of motion can also occur.

Treatment options

TFCC tears are managed by non-surgical or surgical procedures and based on the injury classification. The conservative treatments include rest, pain medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, and bracing. Surgery is recommended if conservative treatment is unsuccessful or if a tear is accompanied by joint instability. The operation performed is usually arthroscopic surgery. Although risks are rare, infections, scarring, and injury to the nerve or tendon can occur. The doctor will choose the best treatment based on the severity of the tear.

Time to recover

The recovery rate depends on the type of treatment applied to treat the tear. The recovery time for non-surgical treatment is 4-6 weeks. After an operation, a patient may take up to 12 weeks or more to recover fully. Every person recuperates at a different rate depending on the extent of the injury, age, and overall health.

Preventing a tear

There are ways to mitigate the risk of experiencing a TFCC tear. One approach is to strengthen the wrist and forearm muscles by doing warm-up exercises. Avoiding repetitive and high-impact activities can also help. If a fall occurs, try to avoid falling directly on the hand when possible.

Life after a TFCC tear

Although a tear can be painful, treatment is available. In the majority of cases, TFCC injuries are treated conservatively to start. Surgery is only done if previous treatments fail or if there is joint instability. For most people with a TFCC tear, the overall outlook is promising.