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Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for acute complete rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb in adults. Methods: The following databases were searched: MEDLINE and EMBASE via OVID, CINAHL and SPORTDiscus via EBSCO, from database inception to 31 st January 2018. Inclusion criteria were: (i) randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs) or study of intervention with a comparator; (ii) participants with diagnosis of acute complete rupture of the UCL of the thumb; (iii) participants aged 18 years of age or older at enrolment; and (iv) published in a peer-reviewed English-language journal. Results: In total, six studies were identified for inclusion after screening. All studies had a high risk of bias. Three studies were retrospective comparative case series which compared two different surgical techniques (bone anchor versus pull out suture, suture versus pull out suture, suture versus steel wire). Of these studies, three were RCTs, two of which compared different rehabilitation regimes in patients managed surgically (plaster versus early mobilization, new spica versus standard spica). The remaining RCT compared two different rehabilitation regimes in a mixed group of surgically/non-surgically treated patients. The RCT comparing a standard spica with a new spica demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in outcomes with the new spica at all time points (range of motion, Dreiser index and VAS); this was also the only study to provide sufficient outcome data for further analysis. Conclusion: There is no prospective evidence comparing surgery to non-operative treatment for acute complete ruptures of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb. There is weak evidence to suggest that early mobilisation may be beneficial following surgical repair. Further research is necessary to better define which patients benefit from which specific interventions.

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ulnar collateral ligament; thumb; rupture; surgery