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Common questions relating to Trapeziectomy

How long will I be in the hospital and what should I bring?

This procedure is done as a day case meaning you will be allowed to go home the same day with no overnight stay in hospital.

What are the risks?

As with any other procedure there are complications which can happen with a trapeziectomy. Some of these can be serious. You can ask your doctor if there is anything you do not understand. Your doctor may be able to tell you if the risk of any complication is higher or lower in your case.

  • There are risks with anesthesia and your anesthetist will discuss these with you.
  • Pain: It is common to have pain after a trapeziectomy procedure. This can last for several weeks. It is important that you take regular analgesia provided to you and follow instructions to do hand exercises as advised.
  • Bleeding: This can happen during well after surgery. This generally stops by itself. The risk of bleeding is higher in patients who take blood thinning medication. Your doctor will advise you if you need to stop any of this to reduce the risk before surgery. The risk of damage to artery in the base of thumb is possible but if identified at the time of surgery is unlikely to cause any noticeable problems in future.
  • Infection: The risk of infection is less than 1 to 2%. He will have regular visits for dressing change and therapy appointments to monitor this. Inform the healthcare team if you have a temperature, have increasing pain, increased swelling and discomfort or notice any smell from the dressings.
  • Scarring: This can be tender or unsightly. Your therapy team will teach you how to massage and soften the scar as it heals.
  • Damage to superficial nerves: Damage to small skin nerves can lead to tender scar or numbness around the scar. Damage to small nerve running through the region of where the surgeon is operating may form a painful spot on/near the scar (a neuroma).
  • Continued pain and weakness: A Large portion of patients experience a decrease in pain following the surgery however, a small portion experience little to no change in pain and function. Some are worse than before they had surgery. This can occasionally happen because of the thumb bone sinking down a little. Pain can also be because of surrounding arthritis in the wrist and other joints.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (a malfunction of the nervous system that controls your brain): Pain, stiffness, loss of use of hand. The exact cause remains unknown and it varies in severity and is treated by means of painkillers and physiotherapy. This can take several weeks to months to improve.
  • Problems with tendon: If the tendon is used for suspension or a sling procedure it can snap or move from its position leading to increased pain in few patients.
  • A Large portion of patients experience a decrease in pain following the surgery however, a small portion experience little to no change in pain and function. Some are worse than before they had surgery. 
  • Risk of reflex sympathetic disorder (RSD). Can also be known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (a malfunction of the nervous system that controls your brain). 

When can I drive again?

You cannot drive until you feel you can safely grip the steering wheel in both hands to control the car. This is normally 6 weeks at the earliest. Sometimes it can take longer to get full function.

When can I go back to work?

This depends on the type of job you undertake. Desk based job with no major physical activity can be started at 6 weeks. Heavy lifting is not recommended until 3 months after surgery. Grip strength and pain can continue to improve up to 1 year after surgery. Occasionally pain may persist due to other causes. If you do a lot of physical work with heavy lifting then it can take up to 3 to 6 months.

When can I do housework?

Light household work can be started at 4 to 6-week mark.

How will I know the surgery has been successful?

85% of patients will notice an improvement in their pain as compared to preoperative level 6-8 weeks after surgery. At 3-6 month mark you will see good return to routine daily activities and hand function

What is the recovery timeline?

When should I get back in touch with the surgeon?

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