Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I'm the third person in my family to be diagnosed with thumb arthritis. We are all wondering what can be done for this problem?

Answer:

Osteoarthritis of the thumb can be a very debilitating problem. Without a good, strong, stable thumb, it is difficult to hold a key and turn it in the door or open a jar. Pain and limited motion can make even simple motions like picking up a penny impossible. Thumb arthritis usually affects the basal joint. Just as the name suggests, the basal joint is located at the base of the thumb where the thumb meets the wrist. It is the joint that allows you to stick your thumb out as if hitch hiking or touch the pad of the thumb to each finger. The first line of treatment is usually antiinflammatory drugs and hand therapy. The hand therapist will show you how to use your hands in ways that reduces the stress on the joint. When conservative (nonoperative) care fails to provide relief from symptoms, the hand surgeon considers the need for surgery. There are many different types of surgical procedures used One individual approach has not been found to be the best for everyone. One simple procedure is called a trapeziectomy (removal of the trapezium). The trapezium is a rectangular-shaped bone in the wrist. It is located right where the thumb meets the wrist. Taking the bone out (a procedure called trapeziectomy) removes the source of the pain, but something must fill the hole in order to stabilize the joint. Trapeziectomy can be done along with interposition of tissue and soft tissue reconstruction. Interposition refers to using a piece of tendon or ligament folded up to fit into the empty space left by the bone removal. The technique is simple to do, gives the patient relief from the painful symptoms, and restores thumb motion and strength. Douglas M. Sammer, MD, and Peter C. Amadio, MD. Description and Outcomes of a New Technique for Thumb Basal Joint Arthroplasty. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. August 2010. Vol. 35-A. No. 7. Pp. 1198-1205.

*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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