Purpose To determine the reliability of measuring ulnar variance on lateral wrist radiographs and to compare this technique with previously described methods. Methods Ulnar variance was measured in 100 normal wrist radiographs using the methods of perpendiculars, central reference point, and the lateral radiograph by 3 surgeons on 2 occasions. Intraobserver repeatability and agreement between raters and methods were assessed and compared. Results Intra- and interobserver reliability and agreement were both excellent using all 3 methods within a ± 1.0-mm cutoff. However, there was substantial pairwise disagreement in measures of ulnar variance between all 3 methods. Conclusions This study demonstrates that, for measurement of ulnar variance, the methods of perpendiculars, central reference point, and lateral radiographic measurement each have clinically acceptable intraobserver repeatability and interobserver agreement. Despite their independent reliability, each method of radiographic determination of ulnar variance had considerable disagreement with the other methods, indicative of inherent inaccuracies in the techniques. The lateral radiograph uniquely allows for visualization of the amount of ulnar head protruding proximal or distal to the concave lunate facet and allows for a rapid estimation of pronosupination, which is known to affect ulnar variance. Clinical relevance Determination of ulnar variance can be an important component of surgical decision making in various pathological conditions of the hand and wrist. Traditionally, it has been measured through methods using the posteroanterior wrist radiograph, but there are potential shortcomings with these methods, and use of the lateral radiograph may provide a more clinically relevant picture of ulnar variance. This study shows that measurement from the lateral radiograph provides similar reliability to previously accepted techniques.
- Ulnar variance