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Newport Beach

Joint Replacement & Fusion

Understanding Your Wrist / Hand Pain & Your Options

The wrist is made up of many joints and bones. It is probably the most complex of all the joints in the body due to the fact that every small carpal bone forms a joint with the bone next to it. Furthermore, ligaments connect all the small bones to each other and to the radius, ulna, and metacarpal bones. The ends of the bones are covered with an elastic tissue, called cartilage. This cartilage creates a slick surface that enables the bones to move smoothly.

If the cartilage is worn away or damaged by injury, infection, or disease, the bones themselves will rub against each other, wearing out the ends of the bones and causing a painful, arthritic condition. Arthritis of the wrist and hand is a very common and complex problem, however, the good news is that there are many surgical and nonsurgical treatment options available. Determining which solution is best for your medical situation will require the skill of a specialist. When you come to Hoag Orthopedic Institute, our orthopedic specialized team will implement cutting-edge technology, equipment, and resources to ensure the best treatment possible.

You have several options, depending on your condition, including:

  • Joint fusion: The arthritic surface is removed and the bones on each side of the joint are fused together. Joint fusion may be used to relieve pain and correct deformities that interfere with functioning. With a wrist fusion, you will lose some motion but you will regain a strong wrist. This is especially important if you work with your hands or need strength more than flexibility. Wrist fusion is usually the best surgical option for patients who are active.
  • Joint reconstruction: The degenerated joint surface is removed in order to eliminate the rough, irregular bone-to-bone contact that causes pain and restricts motion. Once the degenerated portion of the joint surface is removed, it may be replaced with rolled-up soft tissue, such as a tendon, or with a joint replacement implant. Which type of surgery is used depends on the particular joint involved, your activities, and your own needs. Your hand surgeon can help you decide which type of surgery is the most appropriate for you.

The thumb basal joint, where the thumb meets the wrist, is often exposed to very high stresses with normal activities. Arthritis of this joint is very common. Patients with advanced disease or who fail non-surgical treatment may be candidates for surgical reconstruction. A variety of surgical techniques are available that can successfully reduce or eliminate pain. Surgical procedures include removal of arthritic bone reconstruction, joint fusion, bone realignment, and arthroscopy.

Why undergo a procedure at Hoag Orthopedic Institute?

The goal is to restore as much function as possible, as well as eliminate or reduce pain to a tolerable level. At Hoag Orthopedic Institute, our specialized team does everything in its power to make your treatment go smoothly. For your convenience, we often schedule surgeries as an outpatient procedure. All of our operating room equipment is state-of-the-art, and the orthopedic surgeons aligned with Hoag Orthopedic Institute are experts in leading edge surgeries. We also hold to a higher standard of care, with a one-to-one or one-to-two nurse to patient ratio.

What to Expect Before and After Surgery

You may meet with a member of the Hoag physical therapy team prior to your surgery in order to record baseline information regarding your condition. They may also provide you with some of the exercises you’ll use during your recovery. Following surgery, a cast will likely need to be worn for the first several weeks. When the cast is removed, a protective splint will need to be worn for the next six to eight weeks. Although pain relief is immediate, gradual exercises will need to be done for several weeks to restore movement and, eventually, to increase power and endurance.

Orthopedic Hand and Wrist Surgeons in Orange County

At Hoag Orthopedic Institute, our orthopedic surgeons have been recognized as experts in wrist fusion and many other leading surgeries of the hand and wrist. A majority of the treatment options for hand and wrist problems can be performed at one of our convenient out-patient locations.


Get started by finding your physician at Hoag Orthopedic Institute today.