Comparing Wrist Fusion to Wrist Replacement

Doctors and researchers at the University of Iowa compared treatment for patients with severe wrist arthritis. One group had a wrist fusion. The other group got a new wrist joint.

This study measured pain, motion, and function to see which treatment was better. They used complications after surgery as another measure.

Complications vary with each type of treatment. The overall number of problems after the operation was the same for fusion as for replacement. Patients with a fusion of one wrist and a replacement in the other liked the new wrist joint the best. This is not a suprise. A wrist fusion often causes problems with personal hygiene and other common tasks. For example, fastening buttons is easier with a wrist replacement.

Newer designs of joint implants may change the future of wrist arthritis. Wrist fusion may give way to wrist replacement to give patients more motion and more function. Currently, replacing the wrist joint is more expensive and may not last as long as a wrist fusion.

The authors conclude that joint replacement will have to give patients better function than a fusion before wrist replacement surgery becomes the standard treatment choice.

Reference: 

David M. Murphy, BS, et al. Comparison of Arthroplasty and Arthrodesis for the Rheumatoid Wrist. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. July 2003. Vol. 28A. No. 4. Pp. 570-576.

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