Base of Thumb Arthritis Surgery

There are several surgical options available for treating base of thumb arthritis:

  1. Trapeziectomy: This is the most commonly performed surgery for thumb arthritis. It involves the removal of a small bone (trapezium) at the base of the thumb, which is then usually replaced with a tendon graft or spacer to maintain the normal length of the thumb.
  2. Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis): In this procedure, the surgeon fuses the bones that make up the thumb joint. This can provide pain relief, but it also limits the thumb’s movement.
  3. Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty): This involves the replacement of the thumb joint with an artificial one. This procedure is less common as it may not be as durable in the long-term.

Expected Surgery Outcome

The main goal of these surgeries is to alleviate pain and improve the functionality of the thumb. The majority of patients experience significant reduction in pain and increased thumb mobility. However, full recovery and maximum improvement can take several months.

Potential surgery complications and risks

Despite the high success rate, complications can arise from these surgeries which include infection, nerve damage, stiffness, and recurrence of arthritis.


  • Infection: As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection. Keeping the wound clean and dry can help to minimise this risk.
  • Nerve Damage: The nerves near the surgical area may be inadvertently damaged during the procedure, potentially leading to numbness or tingling in the thumb.
  • Stiffness: Some patients may experience stiffness in the thumb after surgery. Physiotherapy can help to minimise this.
  • Recurrence: There’s a chance that arthritis might recur even after surgery.

Recovery after Base of Thumb Arthritis Surgery

Following surgery, the hand is normally bandaged and the patient is advised to keep the wound dry for 48 hours to prevent infection. The patient is encouraged to gently move their fingers and thumb after surgery to reduce stiffness. Physiotherapy may be recommended to restore strength and flexibility of the thumb. The recovery period can vary from a few weeks to a few months, during which some degree of pain, stiffness and weakness might be experienced, but these symptoms usually improve with time.

See the Base of Thumb Arthritis page for more information on diagnosis and symptoms.