What is it?
Wrist arthritis typically refers to the breakdown of the normal cartilage surfaces lining the many joints of the wrist.
What causes it?
It can occur via many processes. Trauma, wear and tear of the joints over time, and systemic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can all result in wrist arthritis.
What are the symptoms?
The result of these processes is the development of pain, inflammation, deformity, and stiffness within the wrist.
How is it diagnosed?
A history and physical examination is important to determine the cause of the arthritis and its effect on the patient. Xrays are the initial diagnostic study obtained to evaluate the bones and joints of the wrist. A CT scan or MRI can also be used to obtain more information about the arthritis and to evaluate for associated conditions.
How is it treated?
Conservative treatment of wrist arthritis can involve oral anti-inflammatory medication, splinting of the wrist, therapy, and steroid injections.
The surgical treatment can vary considerably depending on the particular pattern of arthritis.
Some conditions may be improved by arthroscopic treatment of the wrist, whereby a minimally invasive camera and instruments are inserted into the joint to perform a debridement, or “clean-up” procedure. Denervation, or the removal of the nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain, is another surgical treatment that can improve pain, preserve motion to the wrist, and minimize recovery time. Other patterns or severities of arthritis may best be treated with partial wrist fusion, or the uniting of some of the bones of the wrist, to preserve motion but treat arthritic joints. When arthritis is severe, complete wrist fusions can eliminate major joints of the wrist, resulting in a rigid, but durable, functional, and pain-free wrist. Lastly some patients may be candidates for arthroplasty procedures, where, similar to knee or hip arthroplasty, cartilage surfaces are resurfaced with metal or plastic implants to allow motion and improve pain.
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