Dr. Ryan M. Zimmerman, MD discusses what causes finger joints to wear out and when a joint replacement is necessary.
The tiniest joints of the fingers can break down over time and, in some people, need to be replaced. The wear and tear can cause unbearable pain and stiffness. Dr. Ryan M. Zimmerman, a hand, shoulder and elbow surgeon at the Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, said replacement can provide much-needed relief for patients.
What causes finger joints to wear out?
Finger joints can wear out for a number of reasons. Osteoarthritis, which is primary wear and tear, is the most common. Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are also common. Finally, after trauma, joints can have residual irregularities that cause them to wear out more rapidly. Contrary to popular belief, repetitive activities such as typing have not been linked to arthritis.
Can all joints in the hand be replaced?
Many joints in the hand are candidates for joint replacement, but others are best treated with different kinds of surgery. The metacarpophalangeal joints, what people think of as their “knuckles,” that connect the finger to the palm and the joints just past those, are the best candidates for replacement. The joint at the base of the thumb, by far the most common place for people to develop arthritis, is best treated with a different kind of joint replacement surgery for patients who don’t get adequate relief from splints or injections. Also, the joints at the fingertips are best treated with a different type of surgery because they are too small for formal replacements.