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What are the common types of wrist surgery?

Arthritis in the wrist joint is common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Some people may need an operation if the joint is very painful and not responding to other treatment. If your wrist is badly affected, moving your hand up, down and sideways may be very painful and it’ll be very difficult to twist your forearm to place the palm of your hand upwards (this action is called supination).

There are two surgical options:

1. Wrist fusion

Wrist fusion may be suggested if your wrist is badly damaged. This is where the bones in your wrist are fixed to the bones in your hand. This reduces pain and increases strength but usually stops you moving your wrist up and down. However, you'll probably find it easier to turn your hand.

After the operation

After the operation, you'll need to stay in hospital for a few days. You’ll need to keep your wrist protected for six to eight weeks in a lightweight cast, but your fingers will be free for light activities such as eating or writing. You may find some tasks are difficult at first but your occupational therapist will help you overcome these problems.

2. Wrist joint replacement

Wrist joint replacement isn't yet a common operation. The aim is to keep some wrist movement and get rid of pain.

After the operation

You’ll only be in hospital overnight but it’ll be several months before your wirst is completely recovered. Your wrist will be kept protected for two to six weeks before you start rehabilitation, which is aimed at improving the movement in your wrist and function in your hand.

Your physiotherapist or hand therapist will explain what you can and can’t do with your replacement joint and how to keep it in good condition.


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