CMC Surgery for Thumb Arthritis


CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Thumb arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and restricts motion in the hand. For most people, over-the-counter medications or a soft brace can bring relief. But for others, surgery is their only option. Learn about a procedure that is giving patients their mobility back.

Pinching, gripping, squeezing, lifting. Sounds simple … but for Marcy Dub, thumb arthritis made those simple daily tasks difficult. Even her golf game was impacted.

“The grip on my golf club. I just couldn’t effectively do the swing,” Dub recalled.

Marcy tried multiple treatments to relieve her symptoms.

“I did go through shots, cortisone shots, twice and a portable splint and it just didn’t work for me,” shared Dub.

Mark Cohen, MD, director of hand and elbow surgery at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush explained, “The joint that becomes arthritic is the joint that connects the metacarpal to the wrist bone. And she has lost all the cartilage in between those two joints.”

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Mark Cohen is the director of hand and elbow surgery at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. For people who don’t find relief with medication or braces, he recommends carpometacarpal arthroplasty, or CMC surgery.

“One of the arthritic bones, the bone that the thumb connects to in the wrist, is removed and the joint is rebuilt with one of the patient’s tendons,” described Dr. Cohen.

The surgery is done in under 45 minutes and the patient can even be awake for the procedure.

“I like to say that the most miserable people going into the surgery are the happiest people coming out,” shared Dr. Cohen.

For Marcy, the surgery allowed her to grab back what she had lost.

“It’s put me back on the map. It’s totally changed,” exclaimed Dub.

And now she’s looking forward to getting back to the swing of things.

Dr. Cohen says 80 to 90 percent of people can treat their thumb arthritis without surgery. But for those whose arthritis is severe, the recovery time is typically about three months after surgery.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #4831

ARTHRITIC THUMB: Thumb arthritis is common as you age and a previous trauma or injury to the thumb joint can cause thumb arthritis. It occurs when cartilage wears away from the ends of the bones that form the joint at the base of your thumb, also known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. Thumb arthritis can cause severe pain, swelling, and decreased strength and range of motion, making it difficult to do simple tasks, such as turning doorknobs and opening jars. Factors that can increase your risk of thumb arthritis include being female, being over 40, obesity, certain hereditary conditions, such as joint ligament laxity and malformed joints, injuries to your thumb joint, such as fractures and sprains, diseases that change the normal structure and function of cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and activities and jobs that put high stress on the thumb joint.


DIAGNOSIS:  During a physical exam, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for noticeable lumps on your joints. The doctor might hold your joint while moving your thumb, with pressure, against your wrist bone. If this movement produces a grinding sound, or causes pain or a gritty feeling, the cartilage has likely worn down, and the bones are rubbing against each other. X-rays can reveal signs of thumb arthritis including bone spurs, worn-down cartilage, and loss of joint space. Treatment usually involves a combination of non-surgical therapies including medications, a splint to support the joint, injections and as a last option surgery.


CARPOMETACARPAL ARTHROPLASTY THUMB SURGERY: Thumb carpometacarpal arthroplasty is a treatment option for thumb arthritis. The surgery involves removing the small wrist bone that is part of the carpometacarpal joint and replacing it with a wrist flexor tendon. During the procedure, a small incision is made over the carpometacarpal joint, and the trapezium wrist bone is removed. Then a small incision is made in the forearm to release a wrist flexor tendon. It is attached to the base of the thumb metacarpal bone with a bone anchor, and then the remainder of the tendon is rolled into a ball and placed into the void left by the trapezium. The incisions are closed with absorbable sutures, and the hand is covered by a dressing and cast to immobilize the wrist and portion of the thumb.





If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Mark Cohen, MD, Director of Hand and Elbow Surgery

Read the entire Q&A