Dr. Alexandra Turner Plastic Surgeon MBBS BSc FRACS

Hand Surgery Adelaide - Carpal tunnel release cubital, trigger finger, trapeziectomy, Dupuytren’s, finger joint replacement

Trapeziectomy with Ligament Reconstruction

A Trapeziectomy together with ligament reconstruction is a surgical procedure to address the symptoms and progression of osteoarthritis of the thumb joint. It is considered the treatment of choice for advanced arthritis of the thumb joint.

What is osteoarthritis of the thumb joint?

Osteoarthritis in the basal thumb joint is a painful and frustrating condition. It occurs between the thumb metacarpal and the trapezium, a small bone in the wrist. This joint is essential to maintain a large range of motion in the thumb.

Osteoarthritis in the joint at the base of your thumb is very common. It can be very painful and prevent you from performing simple daily activities.

Reasons to have a Trapeziectomy and Ligament Reconstruction

Sufferers of arthritis in the thumb often experience pain associated with certain activities, including pinching and gripping movements like peeling vegetables and opening packets. As the arthritis progresses and degradation of the joint continues there may be noticeable swelling around the joint, and if left untreated it can result in pain even at rest, and deformity at the base of the thumb (a crooked looking thumb).

A trapeziectomy is an effective way to relieve the pain, address the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and improve the function of your thumb and hand.

Trapeziectomy and Ligament Reconstruction procedure

During the trapeziectomy, the surgeon will remove the arthritis affected bone (trapezium) and then reconstruct the ligaments to stabilise the joint.

The surgery involves an incision at the base of the thumb and the complete removal of the trapezium bone. The surgeon will then stabilise the thumb with supporting structures.

The trapeziectomy and ligament procedure is performed as day surgery under general anaesthesia, and you will likely return home the same day. Your wounds will be covered with surgical tape, and a plaster splint or a supportive hand and wrist dressing applied.

Recovery after surgery

We will give you guidelines to ensure the best recovery possible following your surgery. Recovery times vary from patient to patient, but most people recover from the operation within six to eight weeks and regain their full hand strength and movement within six months.

In the week following your procedure, the plaster splint will be replaced with a removable splint custom-made for your hand.

After the first week, the splint may be removed for hygiene and gentle exercises if your hand feels comfortable. You will work with a hand therapist to rehabilitate the movement and strength in your hand and thumb.

In most cases, you can stop wearing the splint after four to six weeks, and you can gradually return to regular use as your hand allows. In some cases, the area around the base of the thumb remains swollen for a few months after surgery; gentle massage and moisturising the area can help.


Call Dr Turner’s office today to book your appointment to find out how to relieve the pain of arthritis in the thumb joint with a trapeziectomy.