Ask Trevor CHT: Trapeziectomy surgery for osteoarthritis?

Wanda asks:

"I have osteoarthritis in my right thumb. It’s very painful. I recently saw an orthopedic hand specialist who recommended surgery (a trapeziectomy). He said the surgery has a 90-95% success rate, would take the pain away completely, and is covered by my insurance.

If I decide to have the surgery, how long will it take to recover and will my hand be back to normal as a result?"


Certified Hand Therapist Trevor says:

"Trapeziectomies do indeed have a very high success rate, particularly given how complicated the joint is.

You should know going in that it's usually a pretty long recovery. The first 10-12 weeks tend to be fairly tough as far as recovery go but most people are very happy after 6 months.

I worked with a surgeon once who would tell his patients, "you'll wonder why you did it at 3 months and you'll be glad you did it at 6 months" and I've found that by and large, this is true.

Very few of my patients end up regretting having the surgery. As with any surgery, there is no 100% guarantee that everything will work out satisfactorily.

A small percentage of people have postoperative complications, most often because the bone settles and starts banging against the next small wrist bone down.

Unfortunately, you'll probably never be "100%" back to what you were able to do before the pain began, but most people find that they are able to almost all the things they want to do with minimal worry about pain. 

Just remember, the point of the surgery isn't to get back all your strength and motion. It's to reduce your pain and get you functional again. "