When It Comes to Treating Arthritic Thumbs, Like the Hip and Knee, Thumb Basal Joint Replacement May Soon be the Gold Standard

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Hand and Upper Limb Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Alejandro Badia Says Joint Implants Techniques Improved; Offers Tips

Dr. Alejandro Badia

Thanks to current advancements in surgical techniques and joint-implant technology for treatments for painful osteoarthritis of the thumb, we are getting much closer to the ideal.

Thanks to current advancements in surgical techniques and joint-implant technology for treatments for painful osteoarthritis of the thumb, “we are getting much closer to the ideal,” says Miami-based orthopedic surgeon Alejandro Badia MD. “The future is now.”

Dr. Badia, a well-recognized hand and upper-limbs specialist, is using the BioPro® Modular Thumb Implant to provide patients significant pain relief and restore full movement and gripping and pinch strength to their thumbs. He notes that the implant matches the thumb’s natural anatomy, is readily inserted as an outpatient joint replacement procedure, maintains the length and cosmetic appearance of the thumb and is effective in returning function to the patient’s hand.

“Newer implants like the BioPro® are overcoming the tendencies of older prosthetic versions to fracture, dislocate, or simply fail to relieve pain and improve thumb function,” he states.
“Equally important, clinical experience shows this advanced implant reduces time spent in surgery and cuts patient hand recovery time by as much as 10 weeks over what has been the ‘gold standard’ for surgical correction of the arthritic thumb, namely LRTI,” says Dr. Badia, founder and chief medical officer of the Badia Hand to Shoulder Center and OrthoNOW®.

“The design of the BioPro® allows surgeons to spare the trapezium,” he explains. “Preservation of the bone means we have burned no bridges. With the trapezium remaining in place, the patient has better treatment choices should another implant become necessary or the thumb joint require further surgical revisions.”

In addition to his reputation for advanced surgical approaches, Dr. Badia has become a leader in the use of the outpatient setting generally for joint replacement procedures involving the hand and upper limbs.

“Outpatient surgery with same-day discharge offers a much safer, more efficient and far less costly option for those struggling with the pain of diseased joints. In fact, patients able to take advantage of outpatient joint surgery recover more quickly at home, require less reliance on analgesic medications to relieve pain, and experience fewer, if any, postsurgical complications, such as infection and blood clots.”

Associated with aging or a prior thumb injury, osteoarthritis of the thumb’s carpometacarpal (CMC or basal) joint is the second most common arthritic condition of the hand, affecting approximately 15 percent of those above 30 years of age and about a third of postmenopausal women. The disorder, which leads to deterioration of the joint cartilage and, in its later stages, bony overgrowths on the trapezium, can result in severe, debilitating pain and loss of grip function and strength. In fact, researchers say arthritis of the thumb joint can prove much more painful than other finger joints affected by arthritis – even causing discomfort during sleep.

“The thumb’s highly functional basal joint is what separates humans from other simians. It plays a crucial role in the use of our hands to grasp, grip and manipulate objects. Consider the importance of the thumb in just completing simple tasks like buttoning a blouse or a shirt or tying a shoe,” says Dr. Badia. “That is why degradation of thumb function can so significantly reduce a person’s quality of life, impacting daily routine and work activities.”

Physicians normally pursue conservative treatment approaches for patients in early stages of thumb arthritis, including use of anti-inflammatory medications, injection of corticosteroids, thumb splinting, and physical therapy. However, “these treatments are unable to alter the inevitable course of the disease’s progressive pain -- even thumb deformity -- leaving only surgery as the next line of defense,” Dr. Badia says.

In their assessment of techniques for managing thumb basal joint arthritis, the authors of the 2017 Orthopedic Research and Reviews article conclude that “while many…options exist, there remains no perfect treatment, but the goal of improving quality of life and patient satisfaction remains the same.” Dr. Badia concurs, but adds that the ongoing evolution of technology, including development of artificial joint implants and other surgical resources like the BioPro®, is bringing the entire field of orthopedic surgery closer to the authors’ stated goal.

Meanwhile, Dr. Badia offers these tips for reducing the risk – or at least delaying onset -- of basal joint osteoarthritis:

  • Perform simple hand exercises that include flexing and bending of fingers and finger touching.
  • Take frequent breaks from jobs requiring strong gripping of tools like hammers, wrenches or screwdrivers or involve pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy objects.
  • Practice good posture, especially when using hands for activities such as keyboard typing.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle: stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and eat foods high in nutrition.

Bio: Alejandro Badia, MD, FACS, is an internationally renowned hand and upper-limb surgeon and founder of Badia Hand to Shoulder Center and OrthoNOW®, a network of walk-in orthopedic centers. Dr. Badia is the author of Healthcare from the Trenches. http://www.drbadia.com http://www.orthonowcare.com

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