Wrist joint replacement (wrist arthroplasty)

Joint replacement is less common in the wrist than in other joints such as the knee or hip but can help if there is osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis that has not improved with other treatments or surgery. It can also improve your ability to carry out everyday activities and, unlike fusing the joint, enable you to have a good range of movement.

What does it involve?

Surgery involves replacing the damaged wrist bones with artificial alternatives (prosthesis). The worn out ends of the damaged bones are removed and metal or plastic joints are used instead.

How is the surgery performed?

Unlike a hip or knee replacement, wrist replacement is often done as an outpatient procedure and is sometimes combined with other surgery such as a tendon repair. A cut is made to the back of the wrist and damaged joint ends are removed. The prosthesis is held in the correct place with special bone cement, along with screws.

How long will it take to recover?

You’ll need to wear a cast to immobilise your wrist for a few weeks and when this is removed, you will be given a splint to wear for a further six to eight weeks. You will also be given a personalised rehabilitation programme to help you increase the strength and movement of the joint.

How long will it last?

Technology is improving all the time but at the moment the average time a wrist replacement is likely to last is 10-15 years.

Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.

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