Thumb Arthroplasty

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

As we age, the articular cartilage that serves as a protective cushion for our bones can wear away. This can cause excruciating pain. If you need pain relief from arthritis in your thumb bone, you’ll be happy to know that many have found thumb arthroplasty to be helpful.

Our specialists at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow strive to relieve thumb arthritis pain by means of non-surgical treatments. However, sometimes hand surgery is required. Schedule an appointment at our Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia offices today to see if this would be the best treatment option for you.

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What Is Thumb Arthroplasty?

Thumb arthroplasty, also known as a thumb replacement, is a surgical procedure used to remove all or part of your damaged thumb joint, including the base of the thumb, and replace it with a prosthetic implant.

This procedure is used to treat those with advanced basilar thumb arthritis. The most common location for arthritis to develop in your thumb is your basal joint, also known as your carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. It is located at the base of your thumb where your thumb (metacarpal) bone connects to your wrist.

Rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis can also cause damage to your CMC joint. Unlike ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition (LRTI), this procedure has a shorter recovery time because the implants can be placed without removing your trapezium bone (wrist bone).

The goal of thumb arthroplasty is to alleviate pain and improve function. It may be recommended if conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy have not been able to relieve your pain.

How Can I Prepare for Thumb Arthroplasty?

Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions so that you can prepare for thumb arthroplasty. These instructions may include the following:  

  • Refraining from eating/drinking anything after midnight on the day of your procedure.
  • An indication of what medications you should or should not take leading up to your surgery.
  • Obtaining medical clearance from your physician, if necessary.  
  • Having blood tests, a chest x-ray, or additional diagnostic imaging tests.

Possible Complications Associated with Thumb Arthroplasty

All surgical treatments come with certain complications, including thumb arthroplasty. These complications can include but are not limited to the following:

  • Infection
  • Nerve injury
  • Bleeding
  • Stiffness in your basal joint post-surgery
  • Malfunction of the artificial implant (loosening, breaking, etc.)
  • Continued pain

Thumb Arthroplasty Procedure

Below you will find the procedural steps for thumb arthroplasty.

  1. Local or general anesthesia will be administered.
  2. Your surgeon will make an incision down the back of your thumb to your wrist.
  3. The arthritic bone will then be removed and replaced with the artificial joint
  4. A tendon near the thumb may be used to stabilize the base of your thumb’s metacarpal bone.
  5. Once the artificial joint is set in place, the incision site will be closed.

Post-Operative Care

After your surgery has been completed, your thumb and wrist will be placed in a bandage and supported/protected by a splint. It is important that you keep your hand elevated.

In time, you will transition from wearing a splint to a thumb cast. You will wear this cast for three weeks, and then you will see your doctor for a cast and pin removal. A customized splint will be made for your thumb and you will be able to start hand therapy.

Within three to six months, you will be able to resume normal activities.

To learn more about thumb arthroplasty, schedule an appointment at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia today! Our specialists are ready to provide you with the quality care you deserve. 

Medically reviewed by

Randall Alexander, MD

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon