Trapeziectomy for Osteoarthritis

This page will provide you with information about having a trapeziectomy. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is the trapezium?

The cube-shaped trapezium bone can be found in your wrist at the join with your thumb. This is the trapeziometacarpal joint.

Figure 1
Trapeziometacarpal joint

Copyright © 2014 EIDO Healthcare Limited

What is the cause of osteoarthritis?

Arthritis has many forms, but osteoarthritis is the most common and occurs where there is steady deterioration at the site of a joint.

In the normal course of things, osteoarthritis wears the cartilage covering the joint surface away. With no protection, the bone below easily becomes damaged and this causes pain, inflexibility and feebleness.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Surgery can help with pain relief and improve mobility in your thumb.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

Immobilising the thumb with a splint can help; a steroid injection at the joint site can also relieve pain. An artificial joint made from metal and plastic can replace the joint. A procedure called arthrodesis is often offered to young people who are always on the go. This involves screwing the thumb bones together. This is a permanent adjustment.

What will happen during the operation?

The procedure takes between one and one and a half hours to complete. Several anaesthetic options are possible for this procedure.

A small incision will be made at the back of your hand at the base of your thumb to access and remove the trapezium. One option will be for the surgeon to build a ligament from the tendon running over the trapezium. The ligament will connect the thumb and the wrist.

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.


  • This procedure is usually carried out as day surgery
  • You will need to keep your hand raised for two plus weeks
  • Bandages or plaster can be taken off after four to six weeks
  • Gentle exercise for the thumb and fingers will assist good recovery
  • Gentle exercise for your elbow and shoulder will also maintain flexibility
  • Exercise will ensure that you are able to carry on with normal activities quickly, however always seek the approval of your doctor for the exercise you plan
  • Within a year you should have regained a good range of movement in your thumb


Thumb movement can be prevented by the pain caused by osteoarthritis so that your movement is restricted. Pain relief and mobility of the thumb are direct results of a trapeziectomy.



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.