Wrist replacement surgery, also called arthroplasty, removes the damaged bone and cartilage in a joint. The bone is resurfaced with implants made from metal alloy and polyethylene (plastic) to re-create the smooth gliding surface that were once intact. The purpose of the procedure is to restore movement and decrease or eliminate pain.
Several indications for wrist replacement surgery that are not treatable by other methods include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fracture and trauma.
Benefits of Wrist Replacement
Eliminate or reduce pain
Enhance movement and mobility
Improve quality of life
Return to normal activity
Low-impact sports and activities
Total wrist replacement is one option available to you and your surgeon. Only your orthopedic surgeon can determine if you are a candidate for this implant or if another type of implant would better suit your unique situation.
While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infection, implant breakage, nerve damage, and fracture. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience stiffness and pain. No implant will last forever and factors such as the patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.
Preparing for Surgery
Patients should begin preoperative strengthening exercises to help them prepare for surgery and their recovery. Patients may be given a comprehensive nutrition plan to help ensure optimum health before surgery.
There are many things that your surgeon may do to minimize the potential for complications. Your surgeon may have you see a medical physician before surgery to obtain tests. You may also need to have your dental work up to date and may be shown how to prepare your home to avoid falls.
Wrist replacement is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. Most patients will wear a splint for 14 to 30 days. During that time, most surgeons will recommend finger and gentle wrist movement.
At home, it is important to continue with your exercises as your physician has instructed. It is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family to help you once you do return home.
Patients who have had wrist replacement surgery typically require many weeks before returning to any type of lifting or repetitive movement activities. Every person’s recovery time will vary. Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to normal everyday activities and will also tell you which activities to avoid.
You will typically not be allowed to participate in high-impact activities or contact sports. These types of activities place extreme pressure on the wrist joint, which could lead to complications.