Subluxation of the extensor digitorum communis tendons in the rheumatoid hand causes ulnar digital drift. If passively correctable, the digit may be realigned by soft tissue rebalancing and extensor centralization, which may preserve a more functional arc of motion than achieved with arthroplasty. A total of 71 centralization procedures were done in 15 rheumatoid patients with a mean age of 55 years and an average follow-up of 9 years. A distally based central-third strip of extensor tendon was used. Correction of ulnar drift deformity was from an average of 47° preoperatively to 7.9° postoperatively, and correction of active range of motion of the metacarpophalangeal joints was from an average of 38° to 56.2°. Reoperation and complication rates were low. This technique corrects and maintains ulnar drift in the rheumatoid hand. Range of motion at the metacarpophalangeal joint level is improved and converted to a more functional one by decreasing the extensor lag.
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