Surgical Information – Procedures

Wrist Fusion

What is wrist fusion?

Wrist fusion, also known as total wrist arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure to stabilize the wrist joint. It involves fusing the forearm bone (radius) with the small bones of the wrist. The procedure is typically performed to relieve pain and restore function in patients with advanced osteoarthritis,deformity or a traumatic injury.

In wrist fusion, the surgeon makes an incision along the back of the wrist, removes the articular cartilageand replaces it with a bone graft from the radius. A metal plate is placed over the back of the wrist and attached to the bone with screws. The goal is to get the radius, the carpal bones and the metacarpals of the hand to fuse together into one long bone.

Anatomy

The wrist is a complex collection of joints and bones that allows us to use our hands in many ways. The small bones of the wrist (the carpal bones) connect the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) to the bones of the hand (the metacarpals). Strong ligaments connect thecarpal bones to each other and to the radius and ulna.

When is surgery recommended?

If you have wrist pain or instability that fails to respond to conservative measures such asrest, over-the-counter-medications, cortisone injections or physical therapy, wrist fusion may be the answer. The procedure is not for everyone, however, so it’s important to consult a hand and upper extremity specialist to assess your condition and determine the appropriate treatment.

What is the recovery time?

Following surgery, patients wear an elbow-length cast for about six weeks. It holds the wrist in place as the bones fuse together. The cast is then replaced with a removable splint so patients can begin rehabilitation with a Certified Hand Specialist. Therapy includes range-of-motion exercises to restore mobility and strengthening exercises to provide additional stability around the wrist joint. Although the wrist will no longer move up and down, turning the hand should be easier after the procedure. Most patients return to work and daily activities within two to three months.