For most patients, thumb arthritis surgery involves repairing and stabilizing the damaged joint.
Surgical treatment isn’t always required, at least in the early stages of arthritis. However, conservative measures like splinting, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication and corticosteroid injections don’t stop disease progression. So eventually, surgery may become necessary.
Hand surgeons commonly use one of several approaches to thumb arthritis surgery. The recommended surgical treatment is based upon how much the disease has advanced and the severity of symptoms.
Patients with joint looseness but no cartilage loss may benefit from arthritis surgery to reconstruct damaged thumb ligaments. The procedure involves removing the damaged portion of the ligament and replacing it with a section of the wrist flexor tendon.
Ligament reconstruction surgery can work to stabilize the thumb joint and may help slow arthritis progression.
Ligament Reconstruction and Tendon Interposition
For patients with moderate to severe thumb arthritis, ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition (LRTI) surgery can relieve pain and make pinching and grasping much easier.
With this arthritis treatment approach, the arthritic joint surfaces are removed, along with some or all the trapezium bone in the wrist. A nearby tendon is then detached and positioned as a cushion between the bones. LRTI is a highly successful thumb surgery with results that can last up to 20 years.
Hematoma and Distraction Arthroplasty
Older, less active patients with moderate to severe thumb arthritis and patients with failed ligament reconstructions may benefit from hematoma and distraction arthroplasty. This arthritis surgery involves removing the trapezium bone and immobilizing the thumb with a wire. Patients can get pain relief and improved hand function with this procedure.
Just as a hip or knee joint can be replaced, so can an arthritic thumb joint.
Also referred to as thumb arthroplasty, thumb joint replacement is a minimally invasive arthritis surgery that preserves nearby healthy tissues while providing pain relief and improved hand strength. For thumb arthroplasty, hand surgeons use metal or pyrocarbon artificial joints and in some cases place synthetic cushioning spacers between the bones.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and those with posttraumatic arthritis or physically demanding jobs may benefit from joint fusion surgery, or arthrodesis.
This surgical approach, which permanently fuses bones together, can also help patients who haven’t gotten relief from other thumb arthritis surgeries. Arthrodesis can relieve pain and stabilize the thumb joint while still allowing the patient to grasp and pinch.
If conservative treatments are no longer effective, thumb arthritis surgery may help relieve your pain and restore function to your hand. For expert advice in the greater Salt Lake City area, schedule an appointment with Dr. J. Douglas Burrows at the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence.
Dr. Burrows, a fellowship-trained, board-certified northern Utah hand surgeon with over 20 years of experience treating arthritis and other problems with the hands, fingers and wrists, can explain your options and recommend a treatment approach. Contact our West Valley City office and schedule a consultation to discuss thumb arthritis surgery today.