Total wrist replacement surgery, wrist arthroplasty, may be an option if you suffer with painful rheumatoid, traumatic or osteoarthritis that does not respond to conservative treatments. The operation can reduce or even eliminate the pain and provide improved mobility.
The wrist is a more complicated joint than the hip or the knee. There are two rows of bones at the base of the hand and four bones in each row. The bones in these rows are called the carpals. The long thin bones of the hand radiate out from one row of carpals and form the basis of the fingers and thumb. The radius and the ulna are the two bones of the forearm that form a joint with the first row of carpals. The ends of the bones are covered with cartilage, which creates a slick surface that enables the bones to move smoothly.
If your cartilage is worn away or damaged by injury, infection, or disease, the bones rub against each other, causing a painful, arthritic condition that may affect strength, grip, and the ability to use your wrist to meet the heavy demands of daily use. The primary reasons for wrist replacement surgery are to relieve pain and to maintain function of the wrist and hand.
During total wrist joint replacement, the DOC surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone and replaces them with an implant, prosthesis. A wrist implant replicates the anatomy and function of a healthy wrist. Wrist replacement surgery may help retain or recover wrist movements and improve the ability to perform daily living activities. Wrist replacement surgery is often combined with other procedures to correct deformities or disorders in the tendons, nerves, and small joints of the fingers and thumb.
After the surgery, you wear an arm-length cast for several weeks and a protective splint for another six to eight weeks. DOC physical therapy is essential to control pain and swelling, restore movement, increase power and endurance, and educate you on ways to avoid unnecessary wrist strain. The physical demands that are placed on the wrist prosthesis will have an effect on how long the implant lasts. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, a wrist replacement will last 10 to 15 years with careful use. As with all implants, follow up every two years with your DOC surgeon to identify any developing conditions or problems.