Thumb Arthritis Surgery

As the name suggests, thumb arthritis surgery is used to treat thumb arthritis, mostly in its later stages. This article will give you information about how this surgery helps you get relief from the pain and discomfort caused by thumb arthritis.
Thumb arthritis surgery is also known as the basal thumb arthritis surgery. It is used as an effective treatment option for people in their later stages of thumb arthritis. Thumb arthritis is a condition wherein the carpometacarpal joint, also known as the CMC joint, located at the base of the thumb causes pain in the thumb joint and discomfort due to various reasons like wear and tear, injury, trauma or osteoarthritis. The CMC joint is the one that connects your wrist to the base of the thumb and is responsible for the entire movement of the thumb. Thumb arthritis can cause severe pain in the thumb which is usually accompanied by swelling, decreased strength in the thumb and lesser motion range. The affected person would also have problems in maintaining tight grip on things. Usually, women are more prone to develop this condition as compared to men.

What Causes Thumb Arthritis

The causes can vary depending upon many factors. Some of the commonly observed causes of thumb arthritis are mentioned as follows.
  • Age over 40
  • Over weight
  • Trauma
  • Injury
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heredity factors
  • Excessive load or pressure on the joint.
Thumb Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis of the thumb base can be treated using various thumb pain treatment options like using hand splints to support the thumb and using over the counter medications like to reduce thumb joint pain and swelling, like ibuprofen and aspirin. Many self care measures and physical therapies are also involved in improving the overall condition. However, if the condition is severe, then doctors may go for basal thumb arthritis surgery as the ultimate resort! The following surgical approaches are used to treat thumb arthritis. Have a look!

Trapeziectomy is the surgical procedure wherein the trapezium bone is removed from the thumb. This surgery aims to relief pain from the base of the thumb and to restore mobility and motion range of the thumb. Trapezium bone is located at the base of the thumb and a soft tissue is used to create a false joint to fill in the gap of the bone.

Joint Fusion
This surgery is also known as arthrodesis, wherein the surgeon fusions the trapezium bone to the metacarpal. This tends to reduce the pain in the thumb and also increases the stability of the joint. However, there is no flexibility left in the thumb after this surgery.

This is also known as joint replacement. In this technique, the surgeon removes the affected joint, partially or entirely, and replaces it with a tendon. At times, surgeons may also use prostheses made of metal or plastic to replace the joints. However, using a soft tissue is mostly preferred due to higher risk of infection.

Another surgical procedure for treating thumb arthritis is osteotomy. In this procedure, the surgeon corrects the deformities due to which the joint experiences problems. The surgeon either cuts or repositions the bones accordingly so that the deformities can be eliminated.

Recovery from Thumb Arthritis Surgery

The recovery period may take from six weeks to several months. In fact, it may actually take more than a year for the thumb to regain its range of motion and strength. After the surgery, you will have to wear a splint for up to 6 weeks. This is because the thumb needs to be still in order to recover and heal, and a splint helps in immobilizing the thumb for a specific period of time. It is also advised to regularly move the rest of the fingers in order to prevent stiffness and swelling. The hand should also be kept in an elevated position. Your doctor would also ask you to do some mild exercises over a due course of time which would help the hand regain its strength.

It is advisable to get in touch with your doctor if you are experiencing any discomforts post treatment and surgery. It is common to feel pain and discomfort immediately after the surgery. Though the recovery tends to be quite slow, you will be assured that your thumb will recover completely after a few months. Take care.
By Shalu Bhatti
Last Updated: 9/21/2011
Have Something to Say?