Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I'm having a lot of trouble with my right thumb and I'm right-handed. The X-rays show severe osteoarthritis at the base of the thumb. The doctor wants to take the worst bone out and pack the remaining space with part of a tendon. Can't they just take the bone out and leave it alone to heal?

Answer:

Taking the trapezium (bone at the base of the thumb) out without doing anything else will result in shortening of the thumb. The hand will be disfigured and your pinch strength will be greatly affected.

In fact there are actually two types of pinch: key pinch and tripod pinch. Key pinch is the finger hold you use to insert a key and turn it in a lock. Tripod or three-point pinch is the opposition of the index and middle finger against the thumb. You use the tripod pinch anytime you pull a tape measure out of its casing or pick up a bag of fast food.

You may not think much about losing your pinch strength but just try turning a key in the door, picking up a dime, or carrying a plate of cookies to the table without using some kind of pinch. And that's just a short list of all the things we use our strong, opposable thumbs for.

Anders Nilsson, MD, PhD, et al. Results From a Degradable TMC Joint Spacer (Artelon) Compared with Tendon Arthroplasty. In Journal of Hand Surgery. March 2005. Vol. 30A. No. 2. Pp. 380-389.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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