Drill Penetration Injury to Extensor Tendons: A Biomechanical Analysis

Jared M. Mahylis, Anora K. Burwell, Laura Bonneau, Lynn Marshall, Adam Mirarchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about extensor tendon failure following drill injury at the time of volar plate fixation. Our goals were to analyze extensor tendon injury following simulated drill penetration, and change in tendon displacement during cyclic loading following simulated drill penetration injury. Methods: Extensor pollicis longus (EPL) and extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) tendons were harvested from 9 fresh frozen cadaveric arms. Eighteen EPL and 18 ECRB samples were created from harvested tendons. Drill penetration injury was performed in either a continuous or an oscillating mode. Injured tendons were subjected to 1200 cycles at 1- to 15-kg cyclic load at a frequency of 1 Hz, and analyzed for failure at drill sites and change in displacement throughout the testing cycle. Results: Ten EPL samples and 16 ECRB samples completed testing without failure. Tendon type (ECRB, EPL), mode of injury (continuous, oscillating), and location (proximal, distal) did not affect tendon displacement during loading. A single EPL tendon failed following continuous drill penetration injury. Extensor carpi radialis brevis samples had a mean change in displacement of 2.8 (standard deviation [SD]: 1.5 mm) and 5.9 mm (SD: 4.7 mm) for oscillating and continuous modes, respectively. Six EPL samples had a mean change in displacement of 4.7 (SD: 2.7 mm) and 4.3 mm (SD: 1.8 mm) for oscillating and continuous modes, respectively. Conclusions: Complete extensor tendon failure due to drill penetration was rare. Drill mode did not affect the degree of elongation. Increasing cyclic loading of extensor tendons after drill injury caused modest extensor tendon elongation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-306
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2017



  • biomechanics
  • distal radius
  • extensor tendon failure
  • fracture
  • iatrogenic injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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