Thumb arthroplasty is a surgical procedure designed to replace all or part of the joint found at the base of your thumb, where your thumb bone meets your wrist bone.
If your doctor decides you need a thumb arthroplasty procedure, he or she will discuss how to prepare for the surgery with you. Depending on your condition, they may advise you to fast beginning at midnight the day of your procedure. They will also instruct you on what medications to stop taking prior to the procedure.
The day of your surgery, your doctor will administer regional or general anesthesia before making an incision over the joint on your thumb. From there, your doctor will remove part of your wrist bone, and possibly part of your thumb bone. Finally, he or she will use cartilage or an artificial implant to reconstruct your joint before closing the incision with stitches. Once the surgery is complete, your doctor will wrap the incision site with bandages.
Like many other medical procedures, there are certain risks associated with thumb arthroplasty procedures. For starters, you may experience stiffness in your thumb or bleed more than expected. Additionally, your incision site may become infected. If your doctor used an implant in your procedure, it may also break or become unstable over time.
Post-surgery, you’ll begin your recovery period. During this time, your doctor may prescribe pain medications to help alleviate any pain or side effects from the surgery. When it comes to medications, it’s important to follow the instructions listed on the medication bottles and any other instructions your doctor provides.
Your doctor will also have you schedule a follow-up appointment. During your follow-up appointment, your doctor may remove stitches. He or she will also answer any questions or concerns you have.
As part of the recovery process, your doctor may recommend occupational or physical therapy to help improve your thumb’s range of motion and decrease any pain. Proper physical therapy exercises can help lower your risk of losing function of your thumb.
In addition to recovery recommendations from your doctor, there are also a variety of self-care options you may benefit from while recovering from your thumb arthroplasty. For example, by applying ice packs to your thumb you may help alleviate swelling and prevent tissue damage. You can also elevate your thumb above your heart frequently throughout the day to help keep swelling down and alleviate pain. You can also do exercises you learn from a physical therapist at home to help decrease stiffness in your shoulder, fingers, and elbow.
Despite the benefits of thumb arthroplasty, there are certain complications that may occur. If you experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor immediately:
If you ever notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as possible to limit the severity of these complications.