How Thumb Arthritis Develops
Problems often start when the thick ligaments that hold the joint together loosen, allowing it to slip out of place. Over time, the articular cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears away, causing pain and limiting movement. This is commonly known as degenerative arthritis or Osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other forms of inflammatory arthritis can also damage the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint in the thumb, also known as the trapeziometacarpal joint (TMC).
David S. Ruch, MD, chief of hand surgery at Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, says women, especially those older than 50, are 10 to 20 times more likely than men to develop thumb arthritis, though no one is quite sure why. Both women and men respond well, at least initially, to conservative measures such as anti-inflammatory medications, splints, activity modification and limited steroid injections. For some, says Dr. Ruch, these may be the only treatments needed.
[These therapies] make people feel better, but they don’t stop disease progression, and eventually surgery may be necessary,” he says.
The best surgical approach depends on the stage of the disease and severity of symptoms.
Dr. Badia calls advances in artificial joint implants like the BioPro® a “step in the right direction.”
Other scientists concur. For example, in the February 2019 Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume), authors write that, in a four-year follow-up, patients who received an advanced thumb-joint prosthesis – in this case, an Ivory® implant – experienced “significantly better thumb abduction, adduction, grip strength, pain relief, satisfaction and faster return to daily activities and previous work” than those who had undergone LRTI. The study included nearly 150 patients.
Advancements in implant design and materials are overcoming the tendencies of older prosthetic versions to fracture, dislocate or simply fail to relieve pain and improve thumb function,” Dr. Badia explains. “Arthroplasty of the thumb is much like a total knee or hip replacement. All or part of the thumb joint is removed and replaced with a prosthesis.”
Associated with aging or previous thumb injury, osteoarthritis of the basal joint is the second most common arthritic condition of the hand, affecting approximately 15 percent of those above 30 years of age and about a third of postmenopausal women. The disorder, which leads to collagen loss and, in its later stages, bony overgrowths on the trapezium, can result in severe pain and loss of grip function and strength…. Read more