Wrist Replacement

Wrist replacement is when the bones in your wrist are replaced with metal and plastic parts.

Several bones come together to form your wrist. The ends of your forearm bones, your radius and ulna, form the top of your wrist. In the middle of your wrist, there are eight small carpal bones, often referred to as your wrist bones. Together, the group of carpal bones is called the carpus. Your five hand bones, or metacarpals, are on the other side of your carpus.

A soft, slippery material called cartilage covers the ends of your bones. This allows them to move against each other with ease. Capsules around your joints make fluid that protects the joints.

Arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, can destroy the joint surfaces in your wrist. Even with treatment, it can cause pain, stiffness, and deformity. This can interfere with your ability to complete your daily tasks.

Wrist replacement surgery is one treatment for wrist arthritis.

Before the Procedure

Your provider will also give you instructions about how to prepare for your surgery. Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery.

If you're a woman, be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or might be pregnant. Tell your health care provider about all of the medications and supplements you take, if you have any allergies
and ask your doctor ahead of time if there are any medications you should stop taking before your surgery.

Your provider will explain what happens during wrist replacement surgery. He or she will also talk with you about any risks or complications that may happen.

You'll be asked to sign a consent form that gives your health care provider permission to do the surgery. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.

What to Expect

Wrist replacement surgery may be done as an outpatient procedure. This means that you may be able to go home the same day.

An incision or cut is made on the back of your wrist. The surgeon will then open the joint capsule to reach your bones.

He or she will take out the damaged ends of your radius and, if necessary, your ulna.

The first row of carpal bones on the other side of your wrist may also be taken out.

The surgeon then fits an implant into the radius. It may be held in place with bone cement. In some cases, the tip of the ulna may also be replaced.

The surgeon attaches an implant to the carpal bones of your hand. It may be held in place with bone cement or screws.

In some cases, your carpal bones may need to be fused together to better hold the implant in place.

A plastic spacer is attached to the carpal implant so that the pieces glide easily against each other and create a natural movement.

After the Procedure

After your surgery, you'll spend some time in the recovery room while your anesthesia wears off.

Your arm will likely be in a cast.

Your provider will give you a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection, as well as a prescription for pain medications to take at home.

You will work with a physical therapist to start stretching and exercising your wrist shortly after surgery. You'll need to continue this program at home for several more weeks.

Your surgeon may tell you to limit the amount of weight you lift or heavy labor you do.

Things to Remember

Wrist replacements may be used to treat arthritis or injuries that interfere with your daily life.
The implant will replace the joint between your arm bones and your hand.
Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery.

What We Have Learned

The first row of carpal bones may be taken out during surgery. True or False? The answer is true. This is done to make room for the implant.

It's important to keep your wrist still for several days after your surgery. True or False? The answer is false. You will begin stretching and strengthening exercises shortly after surgery.