News Flash > Arthritis

 

Replacing Worn Out Wrists

Reported June 10, 2009


PHILADELPHIA, Penn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Hip and knee replacements have changed the way many spend their golden years. New wrists may do the same. Now surgeons are successfully replacing joints that were at one time too complicated to remove. Some baby boomers are benefiting from a surgery that replaces the entire wrist.

When James Murphy stashed his skiis at the end of the season, he was afraid they'd be in storage for good. The avid sportsman tackled some of America's toughest slopes, but rheumatoid arthritis took its toll. Murphy suffered constant pain and stiffness in his wrists.

"It was difficult, because I only had two fingers that I could hold on to the pole with," Murphy said. "I couldn't plant as much as I wanted to."

In the past, the best way to relieve pain was to fuse bones together -- limiting mobility. Now orthopedic specialists replace the entire wrist -- much more complicated than a hip or knee replacement.

 

 

"There are eight bones in the wrist," Randall Culp, M.D., a hand and wrist specialist at the Philadelphia Hand Center at Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., told Ivanhoe. "If you add that to the two forearm bones, you're talking about ten bones that need replacement."

Surgeons make an incision in the back of the wrist. They implant metal parts to support the forearm and fingers, and a plastic spacer holds the joint together and allows movement.

"We're also using what we call porous in-growth," Dr. Culp said. "We don't use bone cement anymore. This is all done through your own bone growing into the prosthesis."

Murphy needed weeks of physical therapy to regain strength, but the pain was gone immediately after surgery.

"I'm gonna feel a whole lot better by the time ski season comes around," he said.

Doctors say the wrist prosthesis is a newer one, so they are still studying how long it will last. They say most patients will do well for at least 10 years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
(800) JEFF-NOW
http://www.jeffersonhospital.org