Connecting the wrist to the hand: A simulation study exploring changes in thumb-tip endpoint force following wrist surgery

Jennifer A. Nichols, Michael S. Bednar, Sarah J. Wohlman, Wendy M. Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The wrist is essential for hand function. Yet, due to the complexity of the wrist and hand, studies often examine their biomechanical features in isolation. This approach is insufficient for understanding links between orthopaedic surgery at the wrist and concomitant functional impairments at the hand. We hypothesize that clinical reports of reduced force production by the hand following wrist surgeries can be explained by the surgically-induced, biomechanical changes to the system, even when those changes are isolated to the wrist. This study develops dynamic simulations of lateral pinch force following two common surgeries for wrist osteoarthritis: scaphoid-excision four-corner fusion (SE4CF) and proximal row carpectomy (PRC). Simulations of lateral pinch force production in the nonimpaired, SE4CF, and PRC conditions were developed by adapting published models of the nonimpaired wrist and thumb. Our simulations and biomechanical analyses demonstrate how the increased torque-generating requirements at the wrist imposed by the orthopaedic surgeries influence force production to such an extent that changes in motor control strategy are required to generate well-directed thumb-tip end-point forces. The novel implications of our work include identifying the need for surgeries that optimize the configuration of wrist axes of rotation, rehabilitation strategies that improve post-operative wrist strength, and scientific evaluation of motor control strategies following surgery. Our simulations of SE4CF and PRC replicate surgically-imposed decreases in pinch strength, and also identify the wrist's torque-generating capacity and the adaptability of muscle coordination patterns as key research areas to improve post-operative hand function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-104
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Jun 14 2017


  • Computer simulation
  • Proximal row carpectomy
  • Scaphoid-excision four-corner fusion
  • Thumb
  • Wrist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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