Wrist Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty)

Joint replacement surgery in the wrist is less common but can be an option if you have painful arthritis that does not respond to other treatments. 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. This causes a painful, arthritic condition.

The typical candidate for wrist replacement surgery has severe arthritis but does not need to use the wrist to meet heavy demands in daily use. The primary reasons for wrist replacement surgery are to relieve pain and to maintain function in the wrist and hand.

Wrist replacement surgery may help retain or recover wrist movements. It may also improve the ability to perform daily living activities, especially if there is arthritis in the elbow and shoulder. During any total joint replacement, the worn-out ends of the bones are removed by your SBO hand surgeon and replaced by an artificial joint (prosthesis).

Wrist joint replacement can be done as an outpatient procedure, unlike a hip or knee replacement, and is often combined with other procedures to correct deformities or disorders in the tendons, nerves, and small joints of the fingers, and thumb.

A cast will 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. Wrist arthroplasty can improve motion to about 50 percent of normal.

The physical demands that are placed on the wrist prosthesis will have an effect on how long the implant lasts. There will be some limitations. Use of a hammer or pneumatic tools may need to be avoided. The amount of weight lifted will need to be limited. A fall on the outstretched hand may break the prosthesis, just as it might fracture a normal wrist, so extreme activities that could result in a fall, such as roller sports, should be avoided.