TFCC is an acronym for triangular fibrocartilage complex which is a cartilage structure located on the small finger side of the wrist. It cushions and supports the small carpal bones in the wrist. It also keeps forearm bones (radius and ulna) stable when the hand grasps or the forearm rotates. If you sustain an injury/tear to the TFCC, you can experience chronic wrist pain and loss of functionality.
Common symptoms of a TFCC tear includes pain at the base of small finger side of the wrist; increase of pain when the wrist is bent from side to side; swelling in the wrist; uncomfortable clicking in the wrist and loss of grip strength.
There are (2) types of TFCC tears. Type 1 tears are caused by an injury. For example, if someone was to fall on an outstretched hand, damage to cartilage, tendons or ligaments may occur.
Type 2 tears are caused by a slow breakdown of the cartilage in the TFCC. This is usually due to age or an underlying condition (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis, gout).
No one is immune to a TFCC Tear. Athletes who use a racket, bat or club are at a higher-risk for injury, but anyone who sustains a fall on an outstretched hand is at full risk. Medical attention should always be considered after an injury to the wrist. The wrist plays a significant role in everyday life and choosing permanent damage due to ignorance is never a good solution for one’s personal health.
TFCC tears are diagnosed during full examination of the wrist. This may involve some manipulation to evaluate range of motion and location of discomfort; an x-ray may be utilized for determination of fractures/abnormalities or an MRI may be requested to review damage to tissue/cartilage and to see full extent of the injury.
Non-operative care is an option for a TFCC tear, but if the tear is extensive, surgery may be required. Normally, arthroscopic surgery is the treatment of choice which involves a few small incisions around the wrist area. Following surgery, an ace wrap and dressing is applied; removed at 1 week and range of motion is encouraged to heal. Recovery takes 2-3 months. Therapy may be prescribed to regain previous strength, movement and function.