What is a trapeziectomy?

Osteoarthritis can occur in the trapezium, which is the cube-shaped bone in your wrist that is joined to the base of your thumb (the trapeziometacarpal joint). This can be a very painful condition, causing pain when you use your thumb and limiting you from normal activities.

A trapeziectomy is a surgical procedure that is used to relieve pain and to enable the thumb joint to work as it should.

What happens during a trapeziectomy?

The operation usually takes around 90 minutes. An orthopaedic surgeon will make a small cut on the back of your hand at the base of the thumb to remove the trapezium. They may construct a ligament to connect the thumb to your wrist using a tendon that runs over the trapezium.

What are the risks of a trapeziectomy?

The possible complications of the procedure may include:

  • Continued feelings of numbness in the thumb
  • Damage to the artery that passes near to the trapezium
  • Severe pain and stiffness

What can I expect during recovery?

Following the procedure, you should be able to go home on the same day. You will be instructed to keep your hand raised for two weeks. After four to six weeks, your bandage will be removed. Over the course of the next few years, your thumb should continue to get back to a good range of movement with the help of regular exercise.

What are the alternatives to a trapeziectomy?

The following are alternatives to a trapeziectomy:

  • Wearing a splint - it may, however, make it difficult to perform normal activities as movement of the thumb is restricted.
  • Steroid injections - may be used to reduce pain but the pain may return after a few months.
  • Thumb joint replacement - an artificial joint made from plastic and metal may be used as a replacement, but this method tends to have a high failure rate.
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