Cambridge Plastic Surgery

Plastic and reconstructive surgery, hand surgery and aesthetic surgery

Medicolegal reporting




Surgery is usually reserved for those patients in severe pain that have already tried non-surgical methods of pain relief.

The diagnosis is confirmed in clinic from the patient’s account of his or her symptoms, from examination and from x-rays.

X-rays are useful to confirm the diagnosis and excluded arthritis at any other joint in the wrist. I do not routinely use CT or MRI scans.


Surgery for thumb base osteoarthritis can be pain-full. I use a general anesthetic with a regional anesthetic block. Immediately after induction of anesthesia a long acting local anesthetic is injected around the nerves to the arm. This usually gives at least twelve hours of comfort after surgery and avoids the need for an over night stay.

For primary surgery I almost exclusively carry out a trapeziumectomy.

The trapezium is the saddle shaped bone at the base of the thumb. Removal of this bone is a relatively straightforward operation that reliably reduces the pain of thumb base osteoarthritis.

There are other more complex operations, which can be appropriate for patients needing revision surgery. The medical literature suggests that more complex operation are not routinely more successful at improving patients symptoms. Trapeziumectomy is effective at reducing the pain of thumb base osteoarthritis in at least 90 % of appropriate patients.


The risks of surgery include infection, stiffness, weakness and pain.

Non-surgical measures to reduce the pain

Change the way that you use your hand, change your door-handles or kitchen-appliances to those that do not require a tight grip from your thumb. Ice, paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen tablets or ibuprofen gel), and an appropriate splint, can help.


Patients are in a bulky supportive bandage for the first two weeks, after which the patient switches to a splint for a further four weeks.
Patients with significant stiffness or swelling will benefit from out patient hand therapy.

The recovery period varies between individuals, most patients feel confident to drive at six weeks.

Further information
More information can be found on the BSSH website:

To make an appointment
please call 01223 550 881 

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