Anatomic variation of the 5th extensor tendon compartment and extensor digiti minimi tendon

Toshikazu Tanaka, Steven L. Moran, Chunfeng Zhao, Mark E. Zobitz, Kai Nan An, Peter C. Amadio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Anatomic variation within the 5th extensor compartment may contribute to the development of tenosynovitis and limit the usefulness of the extensor digiti minimi (EDM) for tendon transfer. The purpose of this study was to assess the anatomic variation of the EDM tendon and its surrounding retinaculum, with particular attention to anatomical variation between specimens. Forty-one fresh cadaver hands were dissected. The length of the 5th compartment retinaculum was noted. The incidence of an intercompartmental septum was noted in each specimen as well as the type of tendinous attachments present between the EDM and extensor digitorum communis (EDC) tendons. The presence and length of any accessory retinacular bands distal to the edge of proper extensor retinaculum was also noted. Only one specimen contained a single EDM tendon, while 71% (n = 29) of specimens contained two slips and 23% (n = 9) had three slips; 24% (n = 10) of EDC tendons had no slip to the small finger, while 61% (n = 25) of specimens had a single slip to the small finger. The EDC's contribution to the small finger was found to be an independent tendon in 42% of cases (n = 17), while 34% (n = 14) of specimens were found to have a common EDC slip, which branched to both the ring and small finger. Three EDM tendons divided distal to the extensor retinaculum, while the remaining EDM tendons divided beneath or proximal to the extensor retinaculum. Seventy-three percent (n = 30) of the specimens had an accessory retinacular band surrounding the EDM tendon identified at the base of the 5th metacarpal. Eighty-eight percent (n = 36) of hands had a septum between the EDM slips. The surgeon should be aware of variability within the 5th dorsal compartment in cases of trauma and in cases of tendon transfer. In our series 30 of 41 specimens were noted to contain an accessory dorsal retinacular band surrounding the EDM and 36 specimens were noted to contain a septum within the 5th compartment. The presence of an accessory retinacular band surrounding the EDM at the level of the 5th metacarpal base is an anatomic finding that requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-682
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007


  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor tendons
  • Hand anatomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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