Thumb arthritis - suspensionplasty on both thumbs at once in two weeks!

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Hello all -

A bio:

I'm a 52 year-old woman who has been suffering with basal thumb arthritis for about 5 years now. I'm Canadian but spent 20 years in Europe working as a chef (apparently worked my fingers to the bone!) I'm now back in rural Canada to be closer to my elderly parents. In any case, I was quickly diagnosed with advanced CMC arthritis in the UK and offered surger, but made the decision to get back to Canada for my parent's sake first, thinking it wouldn't be a problem to sort it out there.

Well, do I ever regret not having surgery in the UK!

It's been an uphill battle here. The first two doctors I saw mocked my condition - the first told me to ''suck it up - we all have age-related aches and pains'' , and that he'd never heard of anyone having surgery to correct it. The second said she didn't believe this surgery was covered under our health care system and that I'd have to have it privately done in the States at my own cost. I was about to give up when I saw a third doctor who agreed to refer me to a rheumatologist. It took eight months to get an appointment and another many months to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Here we are, two years later and I'm finally getting my surgery in two weeks. The harried surgeon talked me into doing both thumbs at once. I know this is completely bonkers, especially as I live alone on a rural acreage and have little support. Why did I agree? Well, I couldn't bear to go through the whole process of waiting again, and I desperately need to get back to work. My career as a chef has been impossible without functioning hands and I've had to take anything else I could find where thumbs weren't terribly required!

Ok - so here's my question; has anyone else had both thumbs done at once, and if so, what are your top tips to get through the recovery? I haven't found ANYONE on the whole internet who has had both at once, so this forum is my last resort.

Please, no anti-national health care comments please. I am grateful for our system (and the NHS in the UK!!), despite obvious deficiencies. I believe my experience was made worse because I live in a complete backwater.

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15 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi, I'm a retired RN and I have arthritis in that joint in both hands, just not as bad as yours. This is what I found through research.

    Most patients achieve complete pain relief and mobility equal to that of a healthy thumb, with results lasting at least 15 to 20 years,”

    Cons: LRTI has a lengthy and sometimes painful recovery and rehabilitation period, including at least four weeks of wearing a thumb cast.

    It also said that it depended on whether you had the cast or the reconstruction surgery.

    It said the first 4 to 8 weeks would be the worst, which is true in many surgeries.

    You might not be able to use your hands. If you live alone, that could be a problem.

    You may already know about all of this.

    My sister had one middle finger done. It was turning side ways at the last joint..

    The up side is, it would be done and over with.

    I feel for your situation. Good luck.

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your insight - yes, I think I understand what I'm in for. I just wonder how soon I'll be able to use my hands at all, and how much. I've now resigned myself to asking for more help from the elderly parents* I'm* supposed to be helping! I reckon even lifting a plate or a cup will be out of the question for a couple of weeks at least. Hey ho! Looking forward to an eventual recovery.

      I wish you a good resolution for your arthritis as well - good luck to you too!

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  • Posted

    Hi, I'm a retired RN and I have arthritis in that joint in both hands, just not as bad as yours. This is what I found through research.

    Most patients achieve complete pain relief and mobility equal to that of a healthy thumb, with results lasting at least 15 to 20 years,”

    Cons: LRTI has a lengthy and sometimes painful recovery and rehabilitation period, including at least four weeks of wearing a thumb cast.

    It also said that it depended on whether you had the cast or the reconstruction surgery.

    It said the first 4 to 8 weeks would be the worst, which is true in many surgeries.

    You might not be able to use your hands. If you live alone, that could be a problem.

    You may already know about all of this.

    My sister had one middle finger done. It was turning side ways at the last joint..

    The up side is, it would be done and over with.

    I feel for your situation. Good luck.

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  • Posted

    I AM 48 and have it in both thumbs . just trying to get therapy and splints for braces for very bad days has been a challenge .

    i too love in CANADA .

    Can you suggest any oils that gave you any relief ? Brace ? some days the pain is excruciating and others i can bare it.

    i have research surgery for when i cant tolerate it any longer .

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    • Posted

      Hey Sammy - sorry to hear that you are struggling. We are quite young to have this problem, and having to earn a living adds to the stress. I've tried a few things - neoprene splints, cortisone injections, regular doses of ibuprofen, strengthening exercises given to me by a physio in the UK. I quickly realised, though, that nothing except surgery would get me functional again. Over the last five years, I've learned to grit my teeth and ignore the pain as much as possible. Heat helps the most - hot paraffin dips, heating pad, etc. I am truly looking forward to the surgery now - at wits end with having to work an entire life around it.

      Good luck to you!

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  • Posted

    I had CMC arthroplasty (Basal joint) on both hands this summer. The R 6/18, the L 8/23. I too am a chef & if I knew it was gonna turn out like this I might not have worked so hard all my life! I am 57 & put my surgery off until my hands-thumbs & wrist would swell so bad I couldn't use them at all & the thumbs would literally lock up & not move for days(trigger thumb) I don't need to tell you about the pain.

    There is a reason you can't find anyone who has had both done at once-most doctors won't do it. In my experience you won't be abe to drive, lift a cup or plate or even wipe your own butt. There was some pain. The doctor scared me to death claiming how painful it was but I thought my bilateral knee replacement that I had done at the same time was much more painful. You will need pain medicine the 1st few days. I hope yours are as pain free as mine turned out to be.

    I had wanted to have both mine done at the same time until I realized the logistics of such a thing. You will be totally disabled for at least a month with both hands done at the same time. This is a very successful surgery most of the time. You have to realize they are pulling a tendon up & repositioning it to act as a cushion where they removed that little bone. The success of this is based on letting that tendon heal & get settled in it's new position. This is based on immobility.

    I am mostly happy w/ my surgery. My thumbs don't lock up anymore & I no longer want to rip my thumbs off & carry them because it hurts so bad. Unfortunately the OA in my remaining fingers has reared it's ugly head & those fingers now ache nearly constantly. The only option the doctor offers for that is fusion & I'm not ready for that yet. I think the rest of my hand hurts so bad because I use them more. The thumbs are still somewhat tender & I tend to baby them.

    Best of luck to you. Women have this condition 5-10 x's more than men. I think it's because we work harder but the doc says it is a design flaw. During our child bearing years our hormones keep our ligaments looser. This laxity helps set up the arthritis from all the repeatative motion & volume of use. Lord knows a women's work is never done!

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    • Posted

      I just had 2 week period where I had a trigger thumb and a very bad middle finger. I put a splint on the thumb. Then transferred it to the middle finger. That seemed to help. If amything touched my finger, it was extremely painful. Thankfully it was a flare up. I couldn't use that hand.

      What you said sounds encouraging for the person who wants to have both thumbs done.

      One month doesn't sound too bad.

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    • Posted

      *Thank you VERY much for this comprehensive reply! You are the first person I've spoken with who has had the surgeries so close together - very helpful to get the reality from you. I think it's madness, but it's all arranged now and I'm just going to get on with it. The surgeon has not really gone into detail as to what I won't be able to do. I told him I was VERY concerned as I live alone. He is apparently a very good surgeon, but is simply extremely busy and doesn't have the greatest bedside manner. I gleaned all the possible problems from the internet and, obviously, from common sense. I know I'm in for it! Yes, being able to do my most basic personal hygiene is my biggest issue. I'm madly trying to devise ways to make it work! My poor old parents will really have to suffer through this with me.

      Boy, I feel for you - I think I'm headed in the same direction - everything aches. I have to get out of this arctic climate - the thought of -30c for months on end with all the joints on fire is sick-making.

      Very interesting info regarding WHY women are so much more susceptible to joint problems. Makes complete sense. Are you in the States?

      From one creaky old chef to another, very good luck to you! *

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    • Posted

      I have recently had Trapeziectomy with sling (3 weeks ago) and have been reading people's stories here.I am intrigued with yours and having both hands done at once ! How did it go and how did you manage post op , it must have been a real trial of endurance .Hope your recovery has been good ! 😊

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    • Posted

      I had a CMC arthoplasty on my right thumb May 1, 2019 At the same time I had the DIP joint (1st joint under the nail) of my 2nd and ring finger fused with screws. I was in a heavy surgical dressing for 2 weeks, short arm thumb cast 4 weeks, my thumb was in a soft brace for 3 weeks and I went to physical therapy twice a week from the time the cast was applied until 3 weeks after I had the soft brace off. A week later I had my thumb, index & pinky finger DIP joints fused with screws. It has been 7 weeks and I've got another 5 more weeks and the joints will fused, the pins will be removed and he will replace the MP joint, next joint on the finger above the knuckle, with an artificial joint. GOD only knows how long it will take for all that will heal Then he will do my left hand. But even without the artificial joints put in yet, i feel like a new person. The pain had gotten so bad from osteoarthritis had gotten so bad i couldn't work, i had trouble picking anything up and since my fingers wouldn't bend it was hard to hold anything in my hand. When i have my left hand done, i will have the arthroplasty and pin done on my thumb at the same time as I have all my fingers pinned. The second procedure will remove the pins and put the replacement joints in. As tough and painful as the surgeries have been it has been worth it.

      PLEASE don't wait too long if your fingers start getting to where you lose the use of them. The worse they are, it is just that much more arthritis that has to be gotten off and then there are bone spurs that have to be removed.one of the reasons he didn't it in just 2 procedures, he told my daughter it is a painful recovery, you can't use your hand for so long and so many people think they want to have it all done but change their mind. But i promise you to be able to have the use of my hands back will be awesome! I've also had FOUR knee replacements & injections in my neck, my SI joint o the right and from L1 all the way down my spine because of arthritis on the left and right side and the Dr finally had to ablate nerves on the right side. They at first thought I HAD Rheumatoid arthritis. but after about a gallon of blood was taken and the tests came back, the Dr said she had good news and bad news . The good news was I didn't have rheumatoid arthritis and the bad news was i didn't have rheumatoid, i had osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid can be treated with all these new medications ..There are really only a couple of meds for osteoarthritis and nothing really works. so i have decided to be the bionic woman. I'll just have everything replaced. LOL GOOD LUCK. ITS NOT AN EASY ROAD BUT IT IS WORTH IT!!!

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  • Posted

    During the time that you have both your hands done don't wear underwear or pants. You should wear a dress or long tee shirt. It makes going to the bathroom a hundred times easier . you may also have to "air-dry" for the first few days until your fingers work well enough to grasp the toilet paper this is also where I've been today would work great for your BMs.

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