Editor's choice| Volume 44, ISSUE 4, P296-303, April 2019

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Suture Suspension Arthroplasty for the Treatment of Thumb Carpometacarpal Arthritis


      Most studies have demonstrated little difference in the outcome of the various techniques proposed for the surgical treatment of thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) arthritis. However, the difficulty and time required to perform each technique vary widely. In addition, the introduction of recent implants has increased the cost of the overall procedure. We hypothesize that using a simple, yet stable, suture suspension technique without tendon interposition or ligament reconstruction yields similar results to conventional approaches with less operative time.


      Three hundred twenty consecutive patients underwent thumb CMC arthroplasty by trapezial excision and metacarpal suspension using #2 high-strength orthopedic suture locked weave alone passed from the distal most abductor pollicis longus and flexor carpi radialis insertions without K-wire fixation or tendon transfer. Average duration of preoperative symptoms was 17.8 months. Patient radiographs were graded for arthritis severity and a visual analog scale (VAS) pain score (scale 0–10) obtained. Postoperative clinical and radiological follow-up averaged 5.4 years (minimum, 24 months).


      The average age at surgery was 57.3 years and there were 221 women (243 procedures) and 65 men (77 procedures). Average total operative time was 23.4 minutes. The dominant hand was involved in 52% of patients. All had prior treatment including orthoses and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with 312 having had at least 1 steroid injection. Five patients had stage 1, 134 had stage 2, 164 had stage 3, and 17 had stage 4 disease on radiographs. Average trapezial space height on final follow-up radiographs was 0.8 cm. Two patients had complete trapezial space collapse and required a revision procedure. The average VAS score was 0.6 with pain eliminated in 269 thumbs, minimal in 49, and unchanged/worse in 2. All patients that were employed at the time of surgery returned to work at an average of 2.3 months (range, 3–16 weeks).


      Suture suspension thumb CMC arthroplasty provides comparable clinical results and several advantages over many current techniques that are described in the literature. The advantages include shortened operative time, inherent stability of the thumb metacarpal height, and no necessity for K-wire fixation, tendon transfers, or implants.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic IV.

      Key words

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