Stener Lesion

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  • The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb arises from the dorsal MC head and inserts at the base of the proximal phalanx
  • Most UCL injuries occur from a fall on an abducted, outstretched thumb, producing a valgus force on the MCP joint
  • Stener lesions occur in 64-88% of complete UCL tears; the distal portion of the UCL avulses from its attachment on the proximal phalanx and herniates through the adductor aponeurosis
  • Because the torn end of the UCL cannot approximate the proximal phalangeal insertion, normal healing and stability cannot be achieved and surgery is required to repair the UCL
  • Key MRI sequence is coronal oblique with T2 FSE
  • On fluid-sensitive sequences, partial tears of the UCL demonstrate focal attenuation of the ligament with hyperintense signal partially traversing the ligament
  • Complete tears are identified by hyperintense signal fully traversing the ligament or at the site of bony attachment on fluid-sensitive sequences
  • MRI of a Stener lesion shows a “yo-yo on a string” appearance with the string representing the adductor aponeurosis and the yo-yo representing the balled-up and proximally retracted UCL
  • Simply following the adductor aponeurosis proximally on the axial images provides a useful landmark for identifying displaced ligamentous tissue, which is readily seen protruding beyond the plane of the aponeurosis
  • Gamekeeper’s thumb (chronic injury) and skier’s thumb (acute injury) are two similar conditions involving the UCL
  1. Hergan K, Mittler C, Oser W. Ulnar collateral ligament: differentiation of displaced and nondisplaced tears with US and MR imaging. Radiology 1995; 194(1):65-71

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