Trapeziectomy (for osteoarthritis)

The purpose of this page is to inform you about the details of a trapeziectomy.  Your GP or health care team should be able to fill in any gaps if you need further information.

The trapezium

The trapezium or the trapeziometacarpal joint is the bone which joins your wrist to your thumb.  It is cube-shaped (see figure 1).

Figure 1
Trapeziometacarpal joint
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Osteoarthritis and the trapezium

Osteoarthritis describes the type of arthritis connected with the deterioration of joints.  It is one of the commonest forms of arthritis.

With the condition, the cover which protects the cartilage has usually worn away.  Without this protection the joint becomes painful, less mobile and weak.

The surgical procedure

A trapeziectomy not only relieves the pain but also restores the use of the thumb and the hand in general.

Is there a substitute for surgery?

Alternative treatments for this condition include restricting the thumb movement with a splint; a steroid injection into the joint or replacement of the joint with an artificial one made from plastic and metal.

Younger patients who are very active are often offered an arthrodesis which means the thumb bones are screwed together for the long-term.

All you need to know about the surgery

This procedure usually takes around 60 – 90 minutes.  One of several available anaesthetic techniques is used before the procedure takes place.

A small cut is made at the base of your thumb on the back of your hand so that the surgeon can access the trapezium and remove the bone.  It is possible to craft a ligament from the tendon which goes over the trapezium which can connect the wrist to the thumb.

Post surgical complications – general

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Wound infection
  • Unattractive scarring

Post surgical complications – specific

  • Remains painful and numb
  • Unrelenting pain, limited use or no use of the hand.  This condition is known as complex regional pain syndrome

Recovery timings

  • Usually discharged from hospital on the same day
  • Hand needs to remain raised for about two weeks
  • Bandage or plaster removal within four to six weeks
  • Exercising the thumb and finger gently helps recovery
  • As does gentle exercise of the elbow and shoulder to maintain flexibility
  • Generally exercise helps to ensure recovery is prompt
  • Please check any exercise programmes with your doctor or medical team first
  • On-going improvement to movement and flexibility over the following year


Osteoarthritis is a painful condition especially at the base of your thumb.  Trapeziectomy surgery relieves the pain and helps return the mobility of the thumb and hand.



EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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