Arthritis At The Base Of The Thumb

Arthritis at the base of the thumb

Many patients affected by this painful arthritis assume that nothing can be done to help them. The first line treatments for this condition are adapting your lifestyle to prevent certain activities which make the pain worse, taking regular painkillers and trying a splint to immobilise the thumb joints which provides support to the thumb.

If this is insufficient and medical intervention is required then in some cases an injection of steroid into the joint can give good pain relief, sometimes for many months.

Patient having their 1st carpometacarpal joint injected with cortisone.

If these measures fail and a patient has significant pain which is interfering with the use of their hand they can be treated surgically. There are numerous different operations available for treating this problem, and the one most commonly done throughout the country is called a trapeziectomy.

There are a number of different operations described to treat painful arthritis at the base of the thumb. In the majority of cases removing the bone called the trapezium (a trapeziectomy) is most appropriate and successfully relieves the pain and improves the function of the hand. Over the years a number of joint replacements have been tried or different materials inserted into the arthritic joint without any of them showing any significant benefit compared with a trapeziectomy. However with more modern technology there are now some implants on the market which are showing good long term results, and in the shorter term patients seem to recover their hand function more rapidly, and report the thumb as feeling more normal than after a trapeziectomy, if they have had one hand treated with a trapeziectomy and the other with a joint replacement. So in some patients with painful arthritis of the joint at the base of the thumb a joint replacement is a good alternative.

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