How Effective Is Wrist Joint Replacement for Arthritis, and Is It Worth It?

elderly woman seeking wrist joint replacement for arthritis

When non-surgical treatments fail to ease persistent severe pain, wrist joint replacement for arthritis can provide welcome relief for some patients.

As the joint that connects your hand to your forearm, the wrist is essential to everyday movement. When biting arthritis pain causes your wrist to hurt, day-to-day tasks become challenging—and incredibly frustrating.

According to the National Library of Medicine, about one in seven Americans suffer from wrist arthritis. If you’re one of them and your pain is restricting you from doing day-to-day activities, it might be worth talking to a surgeon to find out if undergoing wrist replacement surgery could help you find relief.

Keep reading to learn more about this type of intense pain that can result from wrist arthritis, what to expect with wrist joint replacement for arthritis, and how the experts at Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center are uniquely positioned to help you get relief when you have wrist problems.

Who Needs Wrist Replacement Surgery?

Wrist joint replacement surgery (also called wrist arthroplasty or total wrist replacement) is a surgical procedure that can relieve pain and help you maintain your wrist and hand function.

As you age, the cartilage in your wrist joint can start to wear away, causing the bones to rub against each other. This is how painful wrist arthritis develops.

There are several different types of arthritis, but the three most common types that affect the wrist joint include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

The best candidates for wrist joint replacement for arthritis typically have severe arthritis. They don’t put heavy demands on their wrist at work or during other daily activities, like competitive sports.

Alternative options for those who are not ideal candidates for wrist replacement include partial or total wrist fusion or arthrodesis.

Wrist Arthritis Symptoms

Not everyone with wrist arthritis will experience symptoms. For those that do, the severity of symptoms will vary and can come and go depending on activity level.

The most common symptoms of wrist arthritis include:

  • Difficulty Moving the Hand, Wrist, or Fingers
  • Pain
  • Stiffness (Usually Worse in the Morning)
  • Swelling
  • Weakness 
  • Warmth or Redness

Wrist pain is the most common symptom and is typically the first sign of arthritis. It will usually get worse when pinching (and gripping) or sometimes while rotating your palm (e.g., opening a jar).

Wrist Joint Replacement for Arthritis Treatment

When conservative treatments haven’t brought relief and intense wrist pain and dysfunction impact your quality of life, a wrist specialist may recommend looking at surgical solutions.

Wrist replacement surgery aims to minimize bone-on-bone contact to alleviate pain while preserving—or even improving—your wrist function. 

The procedure involves replacing a damaged arthritic wrist with a new artificial joint made from plastic and metal components. This complex procedure is only offered by a few highly-skilled wrist surgeons, such as the ones you will find at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center. Just as patients replace hips or knees, we can now replace wrists!

Wrist Replacement Recovery Time

While the total length of recovery time will vary from person to person, most patients feel pain relief very soon after wrist joint replacement for arthritis. 

In most cases, you will need to wear a splint for the first several weeks after surgery. Your specialist may also recommend occupational therapy to help restore movement and increase strength.

Is Wrist Replacement Worth It?

Often, wrist replacement surgery restores about 60% of normal wrist motion, which is a very functional range of motion. The pain usually goes from a seven or eight out of ten before surgery to a one or two out of ten after surgery (pdf). In most patients, the new wrist, if treated well, will last the rest of their life.

To find out if wrist surgery is right for you, consult an experienced wrist specialist who will carefully diagnose your condition and explain all your treatment options.

FAQs About Wrist Joint Replacement for Arthritis

How long does it take to recover from wrist replacement surgery?

Most people take about six to twelve weeks to recover from wrist replacement surgery. This time frame can vary depending on age, general health, and other factors. Immediately following surgery, you will likely be in a splint. 

Though it may be painful at first, moving your wrist should become less painful as time goes on. Working with a hand therapist will help you recover your function.

How much mobility can you expect after having a wrist joint replacement for arthritis?

Most patients who have wrist replacement surgery often regain 60% of their range of motion. This is usually enough mobility to get back to doing most daily activities and even participate in low-impact sports, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

How long do wrist replacements usually last?

The average patient won’t wear out their replacement. It is designed to last for the rest of a patient’s life. Generally, though, they are used in patients 50 and older, e.g., not in young patients and in “low-demand” patients who will not put too much stress on the wrist replacement. They do need to be treated with respect like any joint replacement.

IHTSC Offers Wrist Joint Replacement

Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center provides convenient care for a wide range of disorders and is one of just a few providers in the nation that offer wrist joint replacement for arthritis.

Our world-renowned hand surgeons, advanced practice providers, and prominent hand therapists will work with you to create a customized care plan using time-tested non-surgical techniques and state-of-the-art surgical approaches that match your lifestyle and needs.

Our team treats every wrist injury and disorder, even the most complex conditions here. How can we help you?

To schedule an appointment, call us at (317) 751-5904 or request an appointment online.

man holding wrist

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Disclaimer: The materials on this website have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute advice. You should not act or rely upon any medical information on this website without a physician’s advice. The information contained within this website is not intended to serve as a substitution for a thorough examination from a qualified healthcare provider. The display of this information is not intended to create a health care provider-patient relationship between the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center and you.