Wrist joint was once considered to be too complex to undergo a perfect replacement with artificial implants. But today wrist replacement surgery is no more deemed as low success rate surgeries. With the advancement in the surgical techniques and implant materials you can achieve more mobility along with complete pain relief.
Like any other orthopedic replacement surgeries, wrist replacement is done when all the non-operative methods of treatment fails. Though not very common as knee or hip replacement operations, wrist replacement have proved to be a boon for many arthritis patients who face challenge to do simple tasks, such as brushing teeth or buttoning shirt, due to extreme pain, swelling, and loss of wrist motion.
Who undergo wrist replacement surgery?
If you are facing severe pain in wrist even on little movement/bending, swelling and no motion in the wrist, this means the cartilage in your wrist is damaged either due to injury or a disease like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The bones in such cases rub against each other causing wearing of the bone surfaces. This results in loss of hand and wrist function.
Replacing such worn out joint with artificial joint prevents the rubbing of bones against each other and helps to regain movement and relieve pain. Surgery is recommended only when medical treatments such as rest, exercises and medications fail to ease your wrist mobility.
You are a wrist replacement candidate if have below problems:
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- You need help in doing simple daily tasks
- Significant pain in wrist despite medications and exercises
Though the age is no more a determinant factor for replacement surgeries as accidental cases of younger patients or juvenile arthritis have also been treated through it. Since the life of wrist replacements is over 10 to 15 years, it is mostly recommended for elderly patients.
What is the wrist surgery procedure?
Joint replacement –
This type of surgery includes removal and replacement of the damaged joint with artificial components. It can be either total or partial wrist replacement. The components are made up of metal and a high quality plastic. This procedure helps retain wrist motion and improves the ability to do routine activities without pain.
If you are undergoing fusion procedure, your carpal bones would be fused to one bone. This retains some wrist motion and is done mostly in acute arthritis patients.
Carpectomy (removal of arthritic bones) –
In this three carpal bones of wrist are removed. The process gives relieve from pain and help in gaining partial wrist movement.
Do wrist replacement surgeries have any complications?
Yes, but they are same as in any other surgical procedure. The possible complications can be infection, loosening, or nerve and blood vessel injury.
There have been significant advances in wrist replacement surgery, so risk and complications are rare. But you should clear all your doubts and queries from your surgeon before giving consent for the recommended wrist surgery.
Recovery after the wrist replacement surgery
After the surgery, probably a bandage and splint would support your wrist for several weeks. Your stitches will be removed within 10-14 days. You will have to keep your hand elevated for few days to avoid swelling, and probably use pillows while sleeping and sitting.
A cast will support your hand for about six weeks after the surgery. Once the cast is removed, you will have to wear a protective splint for six to eight weeks.
Although you will feel immediate pain relief after the surgery, it takes about three months to recover completely after wrist replacement surgery. During the first few weeks, your treatment will focus on pain management through medication, heat therapy, gentle massages etc., to ease muscles and reduce pain.
Simultaneously, your physiotherapist will guide you for ways to grip things carefully with least stress on your wrist.
How to increase the life expectancy of your wrist implant?
The amount of physical stress on the new wrist has the impact on longevity of your wrist implant. A careful use and regular exercise regime as suggested by your doctor can always help to increase the life of your wrist implant.
Post-operation you should see your orthopedic surgeon at about every two years to treat any developing problem.
Precautions after wrist replacement surgery
- Avoid doing too much too quickly even if the pain subsides
- Let the recovery process be gradual, do not be in a hurry
- Avoid sudden weight lifting
- Avoid high-impact actions such as heavy lifting, throwing, or hammering etc
- Consult your surgeon before taking up any new sport or activity
- Follow-up with doctor
- Follow regular exercise regime
Wrist replacement surgery is a life changing option for many people around the world as they benefit in terms of controlled acute pain, improved wrist movement, strengthened muscles, and regained hand’s motor skills.