Thumb Joint Surgery: What You Can Expect

Thumb joint surgery or thumb arthroplasty

The medical terminology of thumb joint surgery is Thumb arthroplasty which is basically a thumb reconstruction surgery where surgeons replace a partial or entire joint from the baseline of your thumb. Thumb joint surgery is a kind of process that is prescribed to the patient who is suffering from advanced basilar thumb arthritis. Medical professionals have developed this surgery to reduce pain in the thumb due to arthritis and improve its functions.

When your thumb gets in an adverse condition, the doctor will prescribe you arthroplasty surgery.  When you decide to go for it, your surgeon will give you a proper manual on how to prepare for the surgery. Like other surgeries, he will ask you not to eat or drink at least for eight hours before the surgery, and give you all necessary medications before going to the OT.

If you’re not already tested, doctor will give you list of routine tests essential before surgery like basic blood test for diabetes, thyroid, EKG test, Chest X-ray, and measure the blood pressure level

Renowned orthopaedic surgeon of MU healthcare Daniel London, MD said that women used to suffer from thumb osteoarthritis more than men over the age of 50 years. If the symptoms are mild to medium, experts use first line treatments with over-the-counter medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, hand therapy, physiotherapy and steroid injections at the targeted portion of your thumb. If none of these medical practices work, then they finally suggest thumb reconstruction surgery.

In conventional thumb joint reconstruction surgery, the surgeon usually removes the trapezium, a small bone linked with the thumb, and finally with the wrist. Next, they harvest a small tendon from the patient and thereby implant it in between the thumb and wrist to serve as a spacer. In this conventional surgery patients need almost three months to completely recover.

However, with the blessing of modern technology, medical science makes the surgery more effective with less recovery time. In this advanced surgery, doctors eliminate the ultimate dependency of harvesting a tendon or artificial spacer. After eliminating the trapezium, the vacant space is left as it is, and your doctor supports the base of the thumb with a second metacarpal. The second metacarpal is the hand bone which anchors our index finger with a fiber wire. After this surgery, the patient can go home at the same time because it is a kind of microsurgery, the incision is very small, about 0.5mm-1mm. After surgery the doctor will give you  a brace to wear for a few weeks for assistance, then after that you may leave the anchor and get into normal life with usual activities.

When is thumb surgery necessary?

After physical examination, your orthopaedic surgeon will ask you about your symptoms and check for any visible swelling, lumps, and associated redness on your thumb baseline. Your primary care physician could hold your joint while moving your thumb, with pressure, against your wrist bone. In the examination that this development delivers a crushing sound, or causes torment or a worse inclination, the ligament has likely worn out, and the bones are scouring against one another.

Advanced imaging techniques like X-ray easily find out the signs of thumb arthritis including worn-down cartilage, bone spurs and joint misplacement.

What can I expect after thumb arthritis surgery?

When your thumb joint is not responding to first line treatment, your doctor will recommend surgery. There are several options including:

Arthrodesis or Joint fusion:  The affected bone joints are permanently fused. And this kind of amalgamation can hold objects without any plain, but do not have enough flexibility.

Osteotomy: It is a deformity correction process where bones of the affected joint are repositioned, and thereby correct deformity.

Trapeziectomy:  The trapezium bone of the thumb joint gets removed.

Joint replacement: all affected part of joint is eliminated and the whole thing is replaced with a graft from one of the tendons

In this medical procedure should be in every way possible on a short-term premise. After medical procedure, you can hope to wear a cast or brace over your thumb and wrist for as long as about a month and a half. When the cast is eliminated, you could have active recuperation to assist you with recapturing hand strength and development

Recovery & Rehab

After the thumb joint replacement surgery your surgeon will discharge you and allow you to return home in a splint. You shouldn’t remove the splint. You’ll be asked to wrap the splint with a plastic bag at the time of shower. You should always keep your thumb in an elevated position for the first 3-4 weeks, after that you feel comfortable to move your fingers. Your surgeon may ask you to follow up after 15 days, if there is less complication that could be discussed over phone or video consultation. After 1 month the doctor will remove the stitches and place a thumb cast which will be removed after 21 days. After complete recovery, the doctor will give you some stretching exercise to improve grip strength, and holding capacity.