Thumb Carpometacarpal Arthritis (Thumb CMC Arthritis/Basal Joint Arthritis)

Thumb arthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed problems in the hand. It is a progressive condition that is generally more prevalent as patients get older. It is much more frequent in women compared to men. However, it is not uncommon for this condition to affect men as well. The condition generally appears in patients in their 50’s. However early forms of this arthritis can be present in patients in their 30’s. This condition can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist tendinitis.

Common complaints include pain at the base of the thumb, difficulty turning a key, and difficulty opening a door or a jar. It is common for people to complain of loss of strength and stamina in the hand. The pain can affect the dominant or the non-dominant extremity. The pain can be localized to the palmar base of the thumb or directly over the top of the thumb as it joins the wrist. Additionally, patients may notice a bump over the base of their thumb. This is generally due to the abnormal movement of the bones about the joint.

Non-operative treatments for this condition include activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and hand splints.

Thumb splints can be worn at night or other times when the patient recognizes that he or she will be doing an activity that generally causes pain to the thumb. Corticosteroid injections may be quite effective in improving pain for many months, but are generally not regarded as a permanent cure.

Explanation of Procedure

Surgery for thumb CMC arthritis is generally done as an outpatient. It can be done under either a block or general anesthetic. There are many described techniques for the procedure and the most appropriate option will be presented to you by your surgeon. Most procedures have in common the removal of the bone that is rubbing on the base of the thumb creating a space so as to improve the pain.