Trapeziectomy (for osteoarthritis)

This page contains information about a trapeziectomy. Further questions should be directed to your doctor or other health care professional.

All about the trapezium

The cube-shaped trapezium bone can be found in your wrist at the join with your thumb. This is the trapeziometacarpal joint.


Reasons for osteoarthritis

Arthritis has many forms, but osteoarthritis is the most common and occurs where there is steady deterioration at the site of a joint.

In the normal course of things, osteoarthritis wears the cartilage covering the joint surface away. With no protection, the bone below easily becomes damaged and this causes pain, inflexibility and feebleness.

How surgery can help

Surgery can help with pain relief and improve mobility in your thumb.

Other treatments

Immobilising the thumb with a splint can help; a steroid injection at the joint site can also relieve pain. An artificial joint made from metal and plastic can replace the joint. A procedure called arthrodesis is often offered to young people who are always on the go. This involves screwing the thumb bones together. This is a permanent adjustment.

The ins and outs of the operation

The procedure takes between one and one and a half hours to complete. Several anaesthetic options are possible for this procedure.

A small incision will be made at the back of your hand at the base of your thumb to access and remove the trapezium. One option will be for the surgeon to build a ligament from the tendon running over the trapezium. The ligament will connect the thumb and the wrist.

General complications

• Pain
• Bleeding
• Infection of the wound
• Bad scarring

Specific complications

• On-going pain or numbness
• Acute pain with very limited mobility, even inability to use hand (called complex regional pain syndrome)

Recovery time

• This procedure is usually carried out as day surgery
• You will need to keep your hand raised for two plus weeks
• Bandages or plaster can be taken off after four to six weeks
• Gentle exercise for the thumb and fingers will assist good recovery
• Gentle exercise for your elbow and shoulder will also maintain flexibility
• Exercise will ensure that you are able to carry on with normal activities quickly
• However always seek the approval of your doctor for the exercise you plan
• Within a year you should have regained a good range of movement in your thumb

To sum up

Thumb movement can be prevented by the pain caused by osteoarthritis so that your movement is restricted. Pain relief and mobility of the thumb are direct results of a trapeziectomy.

We look forward to hearing from you to discuss your needs and see how we can get you the best treatment, quickly and affordably.

Please contact us for further information about treatments not listed here

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