How Successful Is Surgery to Replace the Joint at the Base of the Thumb?


Quick Answer

Surgery that replaces the joint at the base of the thumb is typically very successful, depending on the material used to replace the joint, according to MedicineNet.com. Long-term, the most successful and most common material used is a patient's own transplanted tendon.

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Full Answer

Surgery to replace the joint at the base of the thumb using a patient's tendon is known as the anchovy procedure. It involves harvesting a tendon from the forearm and curling it so it looks like an anchovy, says the Arthritis Foundation. The reason the tissue is curled is to create a cushion between the bones of the joint. As the surgery heals, the body creates scar tissue around the tendon. This creates space between the bones and allows the patient to redevelop strength in the thumb over time.

There are other options for replacement materials besides tendons, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Several types of implants have been developed using silicone, but they usually fail after a few years due to issues such as dislocation, pain and weakness. Occasionally a surgeon uses the trapezium bone under the wrist to replace the joint, which eliminates pain and arthritis but does not restore strength to the thumb. The second most successful implant, as of 2015, is a polymer spacer made from Artelon fibers that allows natural tissue to reform between the bones.

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