Hand Surgery to Treat Arthritis

x ray image of multible joint inflammation in both hands caused by Gout arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis isolated on white background

Your hands are made up of many small joints that work together to do simple, everyday tasks. As you age, your joints are susceptible to a number of ailments, including arthritis. Treatment for arthritis in your hands can range from non-invasive techniques all the way to joint replacement surgery. Let's take a look at how arthritis happens, and how surgery can improve symptoms.

Arthritis of the Hand

Arthritis means that one or more of your joints are experiencing inflammation. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the most common type is osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Healthy joints move easily due to an adequate amount of tissue called articular cartilage, and they're lubricated by synovial fluid that is produced by the joint lining.

Osteoarthritis describes the gradual breaking down of this cartilage over many years. Also known as wear and tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is more commonly seen in the older population. Both small and large joints can be affected, and it doesn't necessarily affect the body in a symmetrical fashion. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is quite different. It's a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect many joints in your body, and often starts in the small joints of the hands and feet and most often affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Instead of cartilage breaking down due to use over time, the lining of the joints swell instead, which causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joint. If the condition isn't treated, the ends of the bones in the joints can erode and joints can become misaligned. 

Other types of arthritis include post-traumatic arthritis, which can follow an injury to a joint, and septic arthritis, which happens due to an infection of a joint. 

Arthritis Hand Surgery

There are many reasons you might consider arthritis hand surgery. If you've already been through non-surgical treatment therapies, such as medication for your arthritis, and you're still not finding relief (or the damage is so extensive it's limiting your ability to work, play, and enjoy life), surgery might be the next option. 

Total joint replacement procedures are one option if non-surgical treatments aren't working. Joint replacements help provide pain relief, while at the same time allowing the joint to return to its former function. Most of the joints in the hands can be replaced, which makes it a great option for patients who have significant disease.

Artificial joints are made of metal, ceramic, or plastic, and will maintain the same movement pattern as the original joint. Once surgery is finished and recovery is complete, patients find the restored function of their joint and reduced pain can be life-changing. 

Dr. Daniel Penello is an innovative thought-leader in the field of orthopedic surgery of the hand and wrist. Learn more about Dr. Pennello, hand and wrist treatments for arthritis, and schedule an appointment