What is rhizarthrosis?

Rhizarthrosis is a form of osteoarthritis affecting the thumb of the hand, more specifically the trapeziometacarpal joint. This degenerative-arthritic process is characterized by chronic inflammation, and is due to wear and aging of the cartilage between the first metacarpal bone and the trapezium. Women are the most affected by this disease.

Prognosis of rhizarthrosis

The prognosis of rhizarthrosis is generally poor, as it is a chronic inflammatory disease that tends to worsen continuously.

Symptoms of rhizarthrosis

The symptoms that characterize this form of osteoarthritis are mainly continuous, severe pain at the base of the thumb. They are followed by the following symptoms, typical of the disease:

  • Swelling of the base of the thumb.
  • Difficulty in performing manual gestures (e.g. opening a tin can)
  • Sensation of stiffness in the trapeziometacarpal joint
  • Production of abnormal noises during the movement of the joint.

Intense and incessant pain in the thumb is the main symptom of rhizarthrosis.

Diagnosis of rhizarthrosis

By gathering the following information, it is possible to make an accurate diagnosis:

  • Check what symptoms the patient is experiencing
  • Perform an objective analysis based on the symptoms reported by the patient and on the specific particular movements performed by the physician.
  • Medical history taken through critical study of the disease and analysis of the patient’s family history
  • Radiological examination

What are the causes of rhizarthrosis?

Rhizarthrosis generally occurs with advancing age, in fact, the main cause of rhizarthrosis is related to the aging of the joint, and the consequent wear of the cartilage in the trapezio-metacarpal area at the base of the thumb. Other times, previous joint fractures may be the cause.

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Can it be prevented?

To avoid this acute inflammation, we should not overload the hand joint by modifying, reducing or eliminating certain habits that are part of our daily movements.

Treatment for rhizarthrosis

There is currently no specific treatment for rhizarthrosis. However, it is possible to undergo symptomatic treatment, which can be conservative or surgical and has the following objectives:

  • Reduction of inflammation, pain and swelling (pain is related to both inflammation and pain).
  • Improvement of joint mobility
  • Allowing the patient to perform normal daily movements.

Conservative treatment includes rest, application of ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, the use of a brace during the night and physiotherapy sessions to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the hands.

Surgical treatment includes the following types of interventions:

  • Arthroplasty: reconstruction of the damaged joint with prosthesis.
  • Arthrodesis: fusion or alignment of the bones of the trapezium and first metacarpal joint.
  • Arthroscopy: removal of a part of the trapezium carpal bone.
  • Trapeziectomy with ligamentoplasty: removal of the trapezium carpal bone combined with reconstruction of the ligaments.

Which specialist to contact?

For a correct diagnosis and treatment of rhizarthrosis it is necessary to consult the opinion of an expert traumatologist and orthopedist.