When you think of joint replacement, hips and knees usually come to mind. Many people don't know that shoulders and elbows can also be surgically replaced. And, even fewer people realize that small joints, like the knuckles of your hand, can be replaced. Knuckle replacement is not new -- the surgery has been around since the 1950s. The best candidate for knuckle replacement surgery is an arthritis patient who has severe pain and very limited hand mobility. Their poor hand function interferes greatly with the most basic activities of daily living. Non-surgical treatments have been tried and deemed unsuccessful.
Knuckle replacement is not for everyone though. As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications and the possibility that the result will be less than optimal. In other words, you could end up worse instead of better. That's essentially what a hand surgeon told me back in the 1980s. I was starting to develop some hand deformity that is common with rheumatoid arthritis. I was referred to the hand surgeon by the surgeon who had replaced my hips and knees. Interestingly, the hand surgeon did not feel I was a candidate for knuckle replacement. I still had a good grip and sufficient strength in both hands. It was only a matter of how my hands were starting to look because of the rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, I had no pain. For those reasons -- that I had no pain and still had good hand function -- I was turned away. Good decision by the doctor, in my opinion, to put the kibosh on a surgery that would have been for cosmetic reasons alone. Thirty-some years later, I still have good grip strength and hand function. If you are interested in learning more about knuckle replacement, check out Health.com's Achy Hands? Knuckle Replacement May Be An Option.
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Photo © A.D.A.M.