Imagine being in so much pain you can’t even hold a cup of coffee or open a jar. Kenneth, a recent patient of Check C. Kam, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., a board certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in the hand and upper extremities, said he wasn’t able to enjoy many of the things we all take for granted because of his hand pain prior to his knuckle replacement surgery with Dr. Kam.
“The pain in my hand got to be where I couldn’t put my hand down on anything where there’d be pressure on my index finger, without it hurting,” says Kenneth.
However, following his knuckle replacement surgery with Dr. Kam, Kenneth is all smiles.
“My experience with Dr. Kam was probably 20 out of 10,” jokes Kenneth. “The office staff and his therapist were fantastic. I would stand and shout it on a street corner, it was that good.”
When nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve the pain and loss of function in the finger and knuckle joint, knuckle replacement surgery may help patients alleviate the discomfort and recover the normal functioning of their hand.
“Dr. Kam suggested I do a joint replacement,” Kenneth says. “And now It works 100 percent better than it did before I went to see him.”
What is Knuckle Replacement Surgery?
The bones in a knuckle joint are held together by ligaments which form a joint capsule. The joint contains smooth bones with the ability to glide fluidly against one another thanks to a substance at their edges called articular cartilage. A fine coat of fluid, known as synovial fluid, lubricates the knuckle joint so it can move freely.
If the articular cartilage deteriorates, is injured, or if the synovial fluid in the joint becomes irregular, stiffness, swelling and pain can result.
Knuckle replacement surgery involves removing the abnormal bone and the damaged elements which line the joint. An artificial joint, composed of either silicon plastic, metal or carbon-coated implants, is then inserted in its place.
The surgeon will make an incision behind the affected finger joint, and retract the soft tissue, exposing the joint. The ends of the bones forming the joint will be removed, and a hollow canal will be shaped into the bones. A prosthesis is then fit into the canal’s space, followed by meticulous closure of the capsule and soft tissue. The hand is then dressed with sterile gauze and protected in a splint.
Kenneth recalls the ease, speed and the success of his procedure: “Dr. Kam gave me a date, I came down to the surgery center, I went in, I came out, and I went home,” Kenneth says. “He set me up with therapy and my hand is every bit as good as it ever was.”
Recovery from Knuckle Replacement Surgery
How long it takes a patient to heal will depend on several factors such as the individual’s age, lifestyle, medical history and the severity of the injury. The doctor will prescribe post-surgery pain medicine to relieve any discomfort felt right after surgery.
Surgery is considered by most doctors as the initial step to full recovery. Occupational therapy is often recommended to provide the patient with the greatest possibility for a complete recovery, in the least amount of time.
Therapy may include heat treatments, gentle massage, range of motion and strengthening exercises, and special bandages to relieve pain and swelling. Carefully following the therapist’s program to completion will give patients the best chance to recover the full use of their hand. In general, the rehabilitation process may take up to three months after surgery.
Results of Knuckle Replacement Surgery
The new implanted prosthesis can enable the knuckle joint to move again with minimal discomfort. It can also help:
- Diminish joint pain
- Enhance the look and alignment of the joint
- Recover and maintain joint range of motion
- Improve overall functioning of the hand
With his successful knuckle replacement surgery behind him, Kenneth is grateful for recovering the full, pain-free use of his right hand.
“I don’t see any restrictions with that hand whatsoever,” Kenneth says. “It’s been a lifesaver because I can flex my hand and use everything: I can open jars, I can hold a coffee cup without dropping it, and I can scratch my wife’s back without it hurting.”
He even says he’s so glad he saw Dr. Kam, he is going to see him to do the same procedure on his left hand.