Complete or partial tears
UCL injuries can be complete, or partial tears.
A complete tear of the UCL almost invariably needs surgery. A complete tear can be associated with the interposition of a thin sheet of connective tissue (the adductor aponeurosis) between the avulsed ligament and its point of avulsion from the bone of the proximal phalanx of the thumb (this is called a Stener lesion, the interposition of the adductor aponeurosis stops the ligament from healing without surgery).
Partial UCL tears can be treated conservatively using a splint.
A moulded thermoplastic splint can be used to protect the partially torn UCL for a period that usually lasts up to six weeks.
Complete disruption of the UCL is usually treated with surgery
Complete disruption of the UCL treated by surgery. The ligament is reattached using a small metal bone-anchor. The repair can be protected with a splint allowing movement of the thumb MCP joint within hours of surgery (and potentially allowing an early return to training for competitive sportsmen or women).
Surgery is performed as a day case using either a short general anaesthetic or a regional block (local anaesthetic injected around the nerves to the arm).