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Midcarpal joint

Recommended video: Carpal bones [14:11]
The eight bones of the wrist, known as the carpal bones, and related bony landmarks.

The wrist complex is a complicated structure and is mainly made up of:

  • the wrist joint (radiocarpal joint)
  • the midcarpal joint

The midcarpal joint allows augmentation of the movements at the wrist joint when it has reached its limit. These movements include flexion, extension, abduction and adduction of the wrist (movements that occur at both the wrist and midcarpal joint take place at the same time).

Key facts about the midcarpal joint
Articulations Articulation between the proximal and distal row of carpal bones
Mnemonic: 'Sally Left The Party To Take Cathy Home' (Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetrum, Pisiform, Trapezium Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate)
Joint capsule Synovial gliding joints
Ligaments Intercarpal, palmar intercapar, dorsal intercapal, radial collateral, ulnar collateral ligaments
Clinical note Midcarpal instability
  1. Articulations
  2. Joint capsule
  3. Ligaments
  4. Midcarpal instability
  5. Sources
+ Show all


The midcarpal joint is formed by the eight carpal bones that make up the carpus. From lateral to medial, the proximal row of carpal bones is made up of the: 

From lateral to medial, the distal row is made up of the: 

It is very easy to remember the carpal bones from lateral to medial, and from proximal to distal rows if you use the following mnemonic!

Sally Left The Party To Take Cathy Home

  • Scaphoid
  • Lunate
  • Triquetral
  • Pisiform
  • Trapezium
  • Trapezoid
  • Capitate
  • Hamate

The midcarpal joint is the articulation between the proximal row of carpal bones and the distal row of carpal bones. At the lateral portion of the joint, the scaphoid articulates with the trapezium and trapezoid. Centrally, the scaphoid and lunate articulate with the capitate. The lunate also articulates with the hamate, while the latter also articulates with the triquetrum of the proximal row.

Wrist (anterior view)

Joint capsule

The midcarpal joint is a series of synovial gliding joints between the proximal and distal rows of carpal bones. Like any other synovial joint, the adjacent carpal bones in the midcarpal joint are lined with hyaline cartilage and the joint cavity is encompassed in a fibrous capsule lined with synovial membrane.

The joint or synovial cavity of the midcarpal joint is large and irregular in shape and it separates the proximal and distal rows of carpal bones. It also extends out to the distal surfaces of the distal row of carpal bones to the proximal surfaces of the proximal bones, but it does not blend with the wrist joint cavity due to the intercarpal or interosseous ligaments (short ligaments that connect adjacent carpal bones).


As the carpal bones of the midcarpal joint are not held together by their shapes (such as the ball and socket joint of the hip), the joint capsule of the midcarpal joint is reinforced by several ligaments (along with the extensor and flexor retinaculum and various tendons of muscles) to stabilize the joint. Along with the intercarpal (interosseous) ligaments, there are the palmar and dorsal intercarpal ligaments and radial and ulnar collateral ligaments.

  • Intercarpal ligaments: They link some adjacent carpals.
  • Palmar intercarpal ligament: Anteriorly, it extends from the proximal row of the carpal bones to mainly the head of the capitate (sometimes known as the radiate capitate ligament or palmar ligament).
  • Dorsal intercarpal ligament: Posteriorly, it projects from the proximal to distal row of carpal bones.
  • Radial collateral ligament: A strong ligament that is a continuation of the radial collateral carpal ligament from the wrist joint that extends from the scaphoid bone to the trapezium.
  • Ulnar collateral ligament:  Like the radial collateral ligament, the ulnar collateral ligament is an extension. It is a prolongation of the ulnar collateral carpal ligament and it connects the hamate bone to the triquetrum.

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