Finger fusion is fusion of the joint for those suffering from hand arthritis. Also known as arthrodesis, finger fusion limits mobility of the joint, but also results in stronger, more stable, and pain-free knuckle. Finger fusion can be done under either general or local anesthetic, depending on your case and your surgeon’s discretion. With general anesthetic, the patient is put to sleep, and with local anesthetic, they are awake with only the finger area being anesthetized. An incision is made in the non-palm side of the finger. The two ends of the affected bones are exposed by dividing the overlying tendons. The ends are prepared, brought into close contact, and then a fixation device is applied, usually consisting of stainless steel wires or a screw. The wound is then closed.
Who is a candidate?
Patients who have hand arthritis who are younger are generally good candidates for finger fusion surgery. As finger joint replacements may wear out with increased activity, finger joint replacement is generally recommended more for older patients with decreased activity levels as this decreases probability of the prosthetic wearing out during the patient’s lifetime.
Who is not a candidate?
Patients who are able to treat their hand arthritis nonsurgically or who have other conditions that prevent them being under local or general anaesthetic are not candidates for finger fusion surgery.
You should inform your orthopedic surgeon of any medications or supplements you take, and comply with certain general surgery procedures such as preoperative blood testing and possible cessation of smoking or use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs one week prior. You will likely be asked to stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery.
The normal healing process takes about 6 weeks. During this time, you will likely have your stitches removed 10-14 days after surgery, and may be given prescription pain relievers for discomfort. Keep your hand elevated above the level of your heart to avoid swelling and throbbing for the first few days after surgery. During this time, your arm will be in a case to give the fusion time to heal. After the cast comes off, a physical therapy regimen can help with any joint stiffness and improve strength and range of motion.
As with any surgery, there are risks of complications related to bleeding, blood clots, infection or adverse reactions to anesthesia. Other known complications include nerve damage and nonunion, or failure of the fusion to occur, which may require revisional surgery.
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