Thumb Arthritis Surgery: Understanding Joint Fusion and Joint Replacement

While the thumb has amazing dexterity, it can also become inflamed or injured as a result of overuse. The use of your thumb is invaluable, and that’s why Heiden Orthopedics wants to help you heal with professional, personalized care.
Thumb Arthritis Surgery

What You Need to Know About Arthritis of the Thumb

The basal joint is at the base of the thumb, and arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions that joint wears down and causes increased friction. Arthritis can also occur in the metacarpophalangeal joint (MP joint), or the knuckle of the thumb or index fingers.

Thumb arthritis typically develops with age, though previous injuries can also contribute to the condition. You may feel pain, swelling, or stiffness at first. Decreased range of motion and reduced strength while gripping objects are common symptoms experienced as the condition progresses.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Non-invasive treatments can regulate pain or other symptoms for mild cases of arthritis without downtime. Treatments include:

  • Medication,including topical creams, over-the-counter pain relievers, or prescription pain relievers
  • Splints or other supports
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections

Our compassionate, experienced team will help you decide the most effective non-surgical treatment to suit your lifestyle and the severity of your condition.

Joint Fusion vs. Joint Replacement: Your Options for Thumb Arthritis Surgery

There are two common options when surgery is needed to repair the joint. Joint replacement involves removing most or all of the thumb joint and replacing it with an implant. The prostheses tend to wear with heavy use. They are typically reserved for older patients, rheumatoid arthritis patients, or those with low-impact jobs and hobbies.

Joint fusion, also known as arthrodesis, connects the two bones together with a metal pin so that they eventually fuse together. In most cases the surgery will completely eliminate pain and produce a stable joint capable of gripping or pinching. Younger patients or those with demanding jobs may benefit from joint fusion.

The ideal treatment varies from person to person. After a thorough examination, a treatment will be recommended to you based on your age, employment, symptoms, hand dominance, and overall health.

Seeking Treatment for Thumb Arthritis

Heiden Orthopedics is the authority for thumb arthritis surgery. Our talented hand, wrist, and elbow surgeon Karen Heiden can ease pain caused by arthritis is the thumb joints with a range of advanced non-surgical and surgical options. Putting off treatment can cause symptoms to worsen, so let Heiden Orthopedics help you discover the ideal treatment to relieve pain and restore natural motion.


I’m 61, when I was 12 I broke my left thumb. It is floppy and useless now. My doctor is going to remove the joint and fuse the bones. I’m doing this the 2nd of March. My daughter wants to take me to Hawaii on the 6th… Will I be able and recovered to go?


    I hope you were able to make it to Hawaii with your daughter and enjoy your time there. All the best.


Hi, I slipped down the stairs eight years ago and dislocated my shoulder. I was in the process of turning and had my left hand on the rail as I slipped and I gripped to support myself but wasn’t able to. At the time no X-ray was done of my hand but Ive suffered pain in my thumb ever since. Ive tried various treatments and anti inflammatory creams but have developed a lump at the base and have constant pain with reduced strength. A fusion has been recommended but I’m worried about how much dexterity I’ll lose and any prolonged side effects. Could you advise me if this is the best option?


    We are unable to provide medical advice without a proper evaluation. That being said, I can recommend getting a second opinion. If you are ever unsure about the surgical options provided, seek out another Orthopedic hand specialist for a second opinion before moving forward.


I’m 47 with Osteo arthritis in both thumb joints, my job is a foot health practitioner. I’ve been offered the 2 types of surgery the fusion and the replacement im just looking for advice or anyone with experience of these surgery’s


    Hi Vicky,
    My mother had the joint fusion surgery over 30 years ago and wound up in constant pain and on disability by age 35. I’d like to think that medicine has evolved and that she was just unlucky but I would opt for the replacement before fusion. It effected every aspect of my mother’s life.


I can practically feel each of your pain and ordeals! When I was 12 years old I was serverly injured breaking my left thumb making a tackle in a JV football game. At the time, I was in foster care so I never received any medical treatment and basically self healed. I’m 47 years old now, have suffered intense pain imobility, and arthritis ever since. As I get older the pain gets worse. What procedure is best for me? My injury is in the left thumb mcp joint.


    I’m sorry to hear about your injury. You should start by seeing an orthopedic hand specialist. A doctor will need to evaluate your injury before recommending treatment.


I have RA and now am having pain and swelling of my right middle thumb joint. I’m not wanting it fused because I’m right hand dominant. I have had the left one fused and while it’s ok I’d rather have more movement in my right thumb. Are there joint replacements for this?


    Hi Kathi,
    Yes there are joint replacement surgery options for your finger.


is there joint replacement therapy for the knuckle closest to my nail on my thumb?


    Hi Cindy,
    Yes there is a joint replacement surgery you could do for your knuckle.


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