Carpo metacarpal arthroplasty or CMC arthroplasty is a type of surgery in which a bone at the base of your thumb is replaced with an implant. The joint where your thumb meets your hand is called your carpometacarpal joint.
Carpal metacarpal arthroplasty, commonly called CMC arthroplasty, is a type of joint replacement surgery, an alternative to the traditional gold standard surgical treatment for carpometacarpal (CMC) arthritis, called trapeziectomy.
During a trapeziectomy, a surgeon removes the bone at the base of your wrist called the trapezium. The trapezium is a small bone, measuring less than an inch in greatest diameter. During CMC arthroplasty, the removed bone is replaced with an artificial implant.
CMC arthroplasty has been found to be up to 93% successful at 10-year follow-ups for new-generation implants.
People who have CMC arthroplasty are generally very satisfied with the results, and it’s less invasive than surgical options that involve tendon grafts. However, CMC arthroplasty generally involves more risk and is more expensive than a trapeziectomy.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about CMC arthroplasty, including benefits, risks, and what to expect during the procedure.
CMC arthroplasty was first performed in
Many different types of surgery are used to treat problems with your CMC joint. Compared with alternative surgeries, some of the advantages of CMC arthroplasty are that it:
- preserves your normal thumb length and alignment, unlike trapeziectomy
- prevents instability of your wrist
- prevents further joint degeneration
- doesn’t require tendon grafts
- has high levels of satisfaction
- still provides the option for trapeziectomy if it fails
You’ll notice we use the binary terms “males” and “females” in this article. While we realize this term may not match your gender experience, it’s the term used by the researchers whose data was cited.
We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
CMC arthroplasty is used to treat CMC joint arthritis. It may help you perform movements that are currently causing you pain, like grasping objects or making a pinching motion.
CMC arthroplasty is often performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning that you’ll be able to go home the same day.
The procedure that a surgeon follows may look something like this:
- Before the operation, you’ll be given either general anesthetics to put you into a sleep-like state of nonfeeling, or local anesthetics, which will block the pain from your hand and arm. In some cases, you may be given both.
- Your surgeon will disinfect your hand and wrist before making an incision over the base of your thumb.
- The incision will be held open with devices called retractors, and the nerves and arteries will be pulled aside.
- Your surgeon will then remove your trapezium bone and replace it with an implant.
- The wounds will be sealed with stitches and covered with a soft dressing.
Your surgeon can give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your surgery. It’s important to tell the healthcare team about all medications and supplements you’re taking. They may ask you to stop taking some medications, such as anti-inflammatories, to reduce your risk of bleeding.
It’s important to arrange a way home in advance since you won’t be able to drive after your surgery.
You’ll remain in a recovery room after your procedure for monitoring and will likely be able to go home after an hour or two when you’ve recovered from anesthesia.
You’ll also likely be referred to a physical or occupational therapist to help you regain strength in your thumb.
Try to avoid strenuous pinching for 6 weeks after surgery to allow your bone to fix to the implant.
You’ll likely have pain, weakness, and stiffness around your thumb during the recovery period, but most people have improved range of motion and strength compared with before their surgery.
One study has reported a success rate upward of 93% at 10-year follow-ups for new-generation implants.
Other risks can include:
One clinic in Northern California lists its average price as $7,623.64.
Medicare and other insurance may cover some of the cost when deemed medically necessary.
Before trying surgery, a doctor will likely recommend conservative treatment options. These include:
- reducing activity
- heat and cold
- using special tools to help with daily tasks like utensils to open jars
- anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications
- cortisone injections
- braces and splints
- physical therapy or occupational therapy
If a doctor does recommend surgery, they may also recommend one of the following procedures:
- Ligament reconstruction: A piece of a damaged ligament is replaced with a graft made from another piece of connective tissue.
- Fusion (arthrodesis): Your trapezium bone is fused to the long, skinny bone at the base of your thumb with a plate or screw.
- Trapeziectomy: Your trapezium bone is surgically removed.
- Ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition: The damaged surfaces of the bones that make up the joint are replaced with a piece of soft tissue to keep the bones separated.
Here are some frequently asked questions people have about CMC arthroplasty.
What’s the most common treatment for CMC arthritis?
How long does CMC surgery take?
How long does my thumb need to be immobile after my procedure?
CMC arthroplasty, also called carpal metacarpal arthroplasty, is a type of joint replacement for the thumb. It’s a treatment for arthritis in the thumb called CMC joint arthritis and an alternative to another commonly performed procedure called a trapeziectomy, in which the joint isn’t replaced.
Recovering from this procedure may take 6 weeks or longer, and people who have CMC arthroplasty are generally very satisfied with the results. CMC arthroplasty may be less invasive than other surgical options. However, this procedure may involve more risk than other types and is more expensive than a trapeziectomy.