Trapeziectomy (for osteoarthritis)

This page contains information on the trapeziectomy procedure. You should ask your doctor or medical with any further questions you may have.

Find out about the trapezium

The cube-shaped bone which joins your thumb to your wrist is called the trapezium or the trapeziometacarpal joint (see figure 1).

Figure 1
Trapeziometacarpal joint
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When the trapezium suffers with osteoarthritis

This condition occurs when the joint is suffering deterioration. It is an on-going condition that wears away the covering of the cartilage, exposing the bone below to damage. Not surprisingly it can be very painful and cause immobility of the joint and lack of strength.

About a trapeziectomy

This surgical procedure helps to relieve pain and allows you to regain the use of your thumb and hand.

Other options instead of surgery

A simple alternative is to use a splint which will make the joint less painful – though it will be restrictive. Another alternative is to have a steroid injection into the joint to relieve the pain. Thirdly, you could have complete joint replacement using a metal/plastic artificial trapezium.

An alternative option for active younger patients is an arthrodesis. This procedure means a long-term option of screwing the two thumb bones together.

The surgery in detail

First of all you will receive one of several anaesthetic options and the surgeon will then operate for about an hour to an hour and a half.

The trapezium is accessed and removed via a small incision made in the back of the hand at the base of the thumb. To reconnect the wrist to the thumb, a ligament can be made from the tendon which travels past the trapezium.

Post-surgical side effects – general

  • Pain
  • Infection of the wound
  • Bleeding
  • Unpleasant scarring

Post-surgical side effects – specific

  • Ongoing pain and numbness
  • Complex regional pain syndrome which presents as acute pain plus restricted use of the thumb and hand

Recovery Time

  • Day surgery – no overnight stay
  • Hand raised for up to two weeks afterwards
  • Removal of plaster or bandage between four to six weeks later
  • Gentle, on-going thumb and finger exercise
  • Similar exercise for the elbow and shoulder to maintain flexibility
  • The exercises help recovery and often speed it up
  • All exercise programmes should be checked by your medical team before starting them
  • On-going recovery and thumb movement over the following year

In conclusion

The condition known as osteoarthritis of the thumb is a painful one. Having a trapeziectomy means relief from pain and improved mobility of both the thumb and hand.



EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Trapeziectomy (for osteoarthritis) Consultants