Richard Baker Blog

Joint Replacements in the Hand and Wrist

There are many joints in the hand and wrist, and they are prone to developing arthritis just as other joints in the body. Arthritis means pain, swelling and reduced motion due to wear and tear within the joint, or more specifically loss of the soft cartilage surface of the joints. This occurs in all of us as we age, but in a minority of people it leads to pain. An effective way of relieving pain in joints is to remove the joint entirely and fuse the bones together. However, this means the joint does not move at all.

An alternative that preserves motion is to replace the joint with a mechanical device or prosthesis. There are some advantages to replacing joints in the hand and wrist. Firstly, the hand and wrist are not weight-bearing joints in contrast to the hip and knee, so they do not have to be as strong. Secondly, the hand is more resistant to infection than other parts of the body because of its excellent blood supply. The disadvantage of the hand as a site for joint replacement is that there are no muscles crossing the individual joints in the hand; for example, there is no muscle in the fingers. This means that the joints are inherently less stable than, for example, the hip and knee.