Knee and hip replacement surgery is quite common, and one we get older most people have at least one friend or family member who has under gone a knee or hip joint replacement. Less commonplace, but equally life-changing, is wrist replacement surgery – especially for patients who are experiencing painful arthritis in the wrist that does not respond to other treatments.
During wrist joint replacement surgery – medically called wrist arthroplasty – the damaged parts of the wrist bones are removed and replaced with artificial components.
In this article Oakland County hand surgeon Dr. Uzma Rehman explains the basics of wrist replacement surgery.
Anatomy of the Wrist
The wrist is a significantly more complicated joint than the hip or the knee. The knee and hip simply connect two bones at the joint.
However, on the hand side of the wrist, there is a row of bones at the base of each hand, with four bones in each row (called the carpals). The long thin bones of the hand then radiate out from the row of carpals and form the basis of the fingers.
Additionally, the forearm is made of two bones (the radius and the ulna) that form a joint with the first row of carpals. The ends of the bones are covered with a stretchy tissue, called cartilage that creates a smooth surface that enables the bones to move smoothly when they move against each other.
Arthritis of the Wrist
If the cartilage in the wrist is worn away, or damaged by injury, infection, or disease, the bones will start to rub against each other, which wears out the ends of the bones. This bone-on-bone condition is arthritis – which is very painful, and limits mobility.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This condition results from a gradual wearing away of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones.
Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that results in pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Osteoarthritis will often affect a joint on just one side of the body, while rheumatoid arthritis usually affects several joints on both the right and left side of the body. Both types of arthritis can weaken the strength of the fingers and hand, making it difficult to grip, grasp, pinch or perform simple fine motor tasks.
Good Candidates for Wrist Joint Replacement Surgery
A hand surgery needs to be consulted to determine if a wrist joint replacement surgery is a good option for a patient. The typical wrist replacement surgery patient has severe, painful arthritis that has not responded to any other treatments.
The primary reasons for undergoing wrist replacement surgery are to relieve pain and maintain function in the wrist and hand. However, it is typically not recommended for patients who need to use the wrist to meet heavy demands in daily use.
Wrist Joint Replacement Surgery
Wrist replacement surgery performed by a skilled, board-certified hand surgeon like Dr. Rehman can relieve a great deal of pain as well as help retain or recover wrist movements. This type of joint replacement surgery also generally improves the ability to perform daily living activities.
During total wrist joint replacement, the worn-out ends of the bones are removed and replaced by an artificial joint (prosthesis). In more extreme cases, the bones of the wrist may be fused together to reduce or eliminate pain and improve grip strength. However, once the bones are fused together, the wrist will not be able to bend, so this type of surgery is only reserved for the worst cases where there is no other option.
Wrist Replacement Surgery Joint Implants
There are several different types of wrist joint implants. Oakland County board-certified hand surgeon Dr. Rehman will discuss your options with you. Most wrist replacement implants are comprised of two metal components, one for each side of the joint. A high-tech plastic, called polyethylene, is used as a “spacer” between the two sides.
One side of the implant is inserted into the radius of the forearm, while the other side is inserted into the hand bone (the carpal component). The plastic spacer is flat on one side and rounded on the other, enabling it to fit into the carpal (finger) component while it rocks on the radial 9arm) component, creating a natural wrist motion.
Recovery from Wrist Replacement Surgery
Recovery from wrist replacement surgery typically takes six to 12 weeks – depending on the patients, age, general health, and type of surgery performed. After the wrist replacement surgery, a cast is worn – then after it is removed the patient usually wears a splint.
Our specialized certified Hand Therapists will work with you during your recovery to strengthen the wrist and accelerate the return of mobility and function to the hand and wrist. Although it may hurt at first, movement will become significantly less painful over time.
Wrist Replacement Surgery | Oakland County
If you are suffering from arthritis, severe pain in your wrist, loss of grip strength, or other wrist problems contact board certified Oakland County hand surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. She will discuss your treatment options with you with skill, compassion and years of experience – and recommend the best treatment to help you relieve your pain and resume the activities that you enjoy.