Surgical Treatment for Arthritis
Arthritis is a group of conditions that causes pain and damage to the joints of the human body, mostly targeting the cartilage that protects the bones. As the cartilage is removed, the bones start to rub against each other more often, producing friction and further degradation and pain. Because of their frequent use, the hands are a common location for degenerative disorders such as arthritis.
There are no medications available that will reverse damage done by arthritis but they can often relieve symptoms. In the early stages of hand arthritis, anti-inflammatory pain relievers can be very effective. Other treatment methods include steroid injections and splinting the affected joint. However, if arthritis-based deformities are limiting the use of the hand or conservative treatments are not providing pain relief, surgery will often be considered.
Hand Surgery for Arthritis
Hand surgery can restore function, relieve pain, and improve the appearance of the hands for patients suffering from arthritis. Hand surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation, on an outpatient basis. The surgeon will make an incision to access the targeted area. Many hand procedures can be performed laparoscopically, allowing patients to benefit from smaller incisions, less bleeding and shorter recovery times.
Depending on the type of arthritis and the extent of the damage, injured tissue may be removed from the joint, tendons and ligaments are repositioned, or the entire joint is replaced with a prosthetic.
Some of the most common procedures performed to treat arthritis include:
- Arthrodesis – fusing the bones of a joint together for improved stability and effective pain relief
- Arthroscopy – minimally invasive procedure that allows for careful examination and minor repairs, such as removing torn cartilage or bone ends
- Resection – removal of part or all of a bone for diseased joints that helps improve function and relieve pain
- Synovectomy – removal of the synovium or tissue lining to reduce pain and swelling and slow the progression of the disease
Total joint replacement involves removing the damaged bones and tissues and replacing them with synthetic materials to stimulate the natural behavior of the joint. While this is the most complex and advanced procedure, it is very successful and can last for several years.
When rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the joint lining, affects the hands it can cause pain even when the joint is not being moved. Tendon transfer is a surgical procedure performed to restore functionality to the hand in patients experiencing tendon ruptures from rheumatoid arthritis. This procedure aims to shift a healthy tendon in order to restore the lost function and relieve any accompanying symptoms.
During the tendon transfer procedure, one or more of the many muscles within the hand are manipulated so that the origin of the muscle, as well as its nerves and blood supply remain the same, but the tendon attached to it will be changed. This can help effectively restore functionality to the affected tendon, but will trigger a different reaction when the muscle contracts. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis.
Recovery and Results of Hand Surgery
After hand surgery for the treatment of arthritis, patients may experience mild to severe pain. Your doctor will provide you with oral medication to manage pain, if needed. The hand will usually need to be immobilized for a few days as it heals. Patients typically require a course of physical therapy in order to restore full function and range of motion to the hand.