New technology helping people who experience wrist pain

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About 800,000 people will get a knee replaced this year. More than half a million will get a new hip and 50,000 will get their shoulder replaced.

Wrist replacements are less common.

Now, new technology and improved techniques are helping surgeons help people with painful, arthritic wrists.

Wrists can move in any direction. They’re made up of 10 small bones and three joints.

“The wrist joint is composed of the radiocarpal joint, which is the wrist that goes back and forth, but people don’t realize that the other half of the joint is this joint,” said Dr. John Fernandez, hand, wrist and elbow specialist at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

When one of those bones or joints goes bad, people can be left in pain, and until recently, doctors could do little to help.

“The way we would treat this is, we would remove that bone and, literally, throw it away, and then, we would pray that the connection between these two bones would be restored, but it really would never be truly restored,” Fernandez said.

But now, Fernandez is one of the few surgeons in the country to replace the distal radial ulnar joint with a metal implant.

“It’s like putting the hinge back on the door, so, now, the door can open properly, and what’s most remarkable is, you see these patients two weeks later, they have no pain, and these are patients who have been in pain for literally 20 years. They’ve had five or six failed surgeries,” Fernandez said.

And the best part? No rehab.

“There’s none because you haven’t touched the muscles. You haven’t touched the tendons,” Fernandez said.

Within two weeks, patients are back doing what they love. Active. Without pain.

The only restriction is no heavy lifting, so, if you are younger or have a strenuous job, wrist replacements may not be a good option.

Now, doctors are working on how best to replace the other main joint in the wrist, the radial carpal joint.

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