Replacing damaged bones with prosthetics can relieve pain, restore motion

When conservative methods have failed to relieve arthritic pain in the wrist, your doctor may recommend wrist joint replacement, or wrist arthroplasty. The procedure involves surgical removal of damaged bones and replacement with artificial (prosthetic) wrist parts made of plastic and metal, which restore movement to the wrist and can help relieve pain. A wrist replacement usually lasts from 10 to 15 years.

What to expect from wrist joint replacement

Over time or due to disease or injury, the smooth, rubbery articular cartilage that cushions and protects the joints of the wrist can wear away. This narrows the space between the bones which then causes them to rub together—a painful friction that worsens over time and may also affect your ability to grasp and hold things.

Wrist joint replacement involves removing the worn out ends of bones and sometimes removing some of the carpal bones that lead into the hand. The worn out parts are then replaced with prosthetics, one that is implanted into the large (radial) bone of the forearm and another anchored to the hand by way of the carpal bones. A plastic “spacer,” which functions much like the body’s articular cartilage, separates the plastic pieces and allows for flexibility and motion.

Recovering from wrist arthroplasty

While wrist replacement surgery is an outpatient procedure, there is considerable time needed to heal completely. You will wear a cast for the first several weeks followed by a split for ongoing stabilization of the wrist. Your recovery will also include physical therapy to exercise your wrist safely while improving strength and range of motion.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.