Surgical Information - Procedure

Artificial Joint Replacement of the Finger

What is artificial joint replacement of the finger?

Artificial finger replacement, or arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace damaged finger joints. The technique is similar to hipor kneereplacement surgery, although much less common. The procedure is performed to relieve pain and restore function to finger joints severely impacted by osteoarthritis.

In this minimally invasive technique, the surgeon makes a small incision on the finger's palm or top side, removes the damaged joint, and places a silicone implant in its place. The artificial joint functions similarly to a door hinge, but doesn't fully replicate normal finger motion.

Finger arthroplasty is typically used to replace the proximal interphalangeal joint – the joint in the middle of the finger. It is also sometimes used on the metacarpophalangeal joint, which joins the hands and the fingers. The procedure is not recommended for the distal interphalangeal joint, the joint closest to the fingernail. Joint fusion is the preferred method of treatment there.

Finger replacements are far less common than hip or knee replacements and the procedure is challenging due to the joint's intricate bone structure. It's important that you consult a hand and upper extremity surgeon specially trained in this technique.

Anatomy

The finger is composed of ligaments, tendons and bones. There are no muscles in the fingers; they move by the pull of the forearm muscles on the tendons. The three finger joints include the metacarpophalangeal joint,which joins the hand and fingers, the proximal interphalangeal joint in the middle of the finger, and distal interphalangeal joint, the joint closest to the fingernail.

When is surgery recommended?

If you have pain and loss of function in your hand that limits your everyday activities,secondary to arthritis, and all non-operative methods of treatment have failed – including anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections and physical therapy – finger replacement may be the answer for you.

What is the recovery time?

Most patients begin rehabilitation with a Certified Hand Therapist within a few days of surgery. Patients wear a removable splint for several weeks to keep the joint stable and help the soft tissues heal. Overall recovery time varies, but most people return to everyday activities within two months.

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