Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I've had arthritis of the base of my thumb for years. I'm finally ready to have the doctor operate on it. What can they do with surgery for this problem?

Answer:

Treatment may depend on where the problem is and how severe the symptoms are. The bone in the thumb that attaches to the wrist is called the thumb metacarpal. The metacarpal attaches to a bone in the wrist called the trapezium.

When the cartilage between these two bones is damaged or worn out, bone rubs on bone causing pain and arthritic changes. Early treatment can help reduce swelling and sometimes restore the cartilage. If the disease gets worse instead of better, surgery may be needed.

The surgeon has several options to choose from. Sometimes the surgeon just removes the trapezium. A ligament or bone graft may be used to hold the rest of the joint together. In other cases, the joint is removed and replaced with an artificial implant. This is called a joint arthroplasty.

Charles Cassidy, MD, et al. Basal Joint Arthroplasty and Carpal Tunnel Release Through a Single Incision: An In Vitro Study. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. November 2004. Vol. 29A. No. 6. Pp. 1085-1088.

*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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