Lifespan Orthopedics Institute
The Most Comprehensive Orthopedic Care in the Region

Total Wrist Replacement

Comprising bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels, the wrist enables activities of daily living. When the wrist joint deteriorates severely, disability and pain can become intolerable.

Lifestyle modifications and treatments such as physical therapy and steroid injections can help. If these do not relieve your pain and improve your function, surgical treatment might be necessary.

Two surgical options for treating degenerative joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are wrist fusion (arthrodesis) and total wrist replacement (arthroplasty).

Wrist fusion, which involves implanting a metal plate, relieves pain but results in the loss of flexibility and limits the patient’s ability to do certain tasks.

Total wrist replacement has been highly successful in relieving pain and improving ability to carry out everyday tasks.

About Wrist Replacement Surgery

Total wrist arthoplasty is used to treat patients who have crippling pain and disability due to rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

The implants (prostheses) used are made of alloy metals and polyethylene (high-density plastic). Current designs use a special porous coating that enables bone ingrowth, rather than cement, to secure the implant in place.

Wrist replacement surgery is performed under general anesthesia and usually takes less than two hours.  Many patients experience remarkable relief from their arthritis pain almost immediately.

Surgeons at the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute work in close collaboration with their peers and with physical therapists to ensure the best quality pre- and post-operative care.

About Your Recovery after Wrist Replacement Surgery

Patients who undergo total wrist replacement usually have a cast for two to three weeks and then wear a splint for a few additional weeks. Several weeks of hand therapy help patients achieve optimal results.

At four to six weeks after surgery, patients have resumed all their activities of daily living, including driving.

Patients who undergo total wrist arthroplasty usually regain a range of motion of 60 to 70 degrees, considered a functional arc, adequate to carry out all activities of daily living.

A man holds his wrist.
The wrist is a complex joint that connects the hand to the forearm. It includes the ends of the lower arm bones (radius and ulna), eight carpal bones, and the five metacarpal bones of the hand.

How long does it take to recover from wrist replacement surgery?

Recovery for any type of surgery is an individual experience. Typically, recovery from a wrist replacement takes six to 12 weeks. Following the removal of the cast, a splint is usually required. Under the recommendation and direction of their healthcare team, patients follow an exercise plan and physical or occupational therapy. The right movement at the right time is key to a successful recovery.

What is the success rate of wrist replacement?

On average, a wrist replacement can restore about 50 percent of normal wrist motion. Patients who do not adhere to restrictions after surgery are more likely to have failures.

How long does wrist replacement last?

On average, wrist replacement can last 10 to 15 years with careful use.

Can you lift weights with a wrist replacement?

Your healthcare team will recommend the amount of weight you can lift. Whether it’s a bag of groceries or a barbell – follow the recommendation to prevent premature wear and failure of your wrist replacement.

Meet our team of hand and wrist specialists