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Small joint replacement surgery

Small joint replacement surgery replaces a joint worn from arthritis or trauma providing pain relief and stability


Small joint replacement surgery is usually carried out on the hand. It can provide pain relief when arthritis affects your knuckles or the base of your thumbs, and restore movement and function. Artificial joints tend to be made from rubber, metal or plastic and pyrocarbon (an extra-strong material).

Radial head fractures in the elbow also benefit from small joint replacement surgery. This is where the end of the upper arm bone fractures within the elbow, and is usually caused by a fall or accident. Replacing the radial head with an implant reinforces the joint and makes it stable.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    Finger joint replacement is an option when arthritis causes pain in the hand. You'll be treated as an outpatient and will go home the same day. Any excess cartilage, tissue and bone is removed from the area, along with the worn joint itself. It's replaced by an artificial joint, which improves the function of the finger and reduces pain. Radial head replacement is carried out under general anaesthetic. An incision is made to the side of the elbow and damaged bone is removed. The consultant will work out the size of implant your body needs, and cement it into place. They will then check the implant fits properly and the area will be closed up using sutures. 
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your consultant will explain the procedure and answer any questions you might have. If general anaesthetic is used during the procedure, you may need to fast for several hours before the operation. Your consultant will tell you how long you should avoid eating and drinking. Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you. You many need revision surgery for the hand joint surgery for example.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After hand surgery, your hand will be in a plaster splint. To avoid swelling, the hand will need to be raised above the level of the heart for the first few days. It will take around three months for the swelling to settle. You'll be able to drive a car and return to work after two to three weeks. After radial head replacement surgery, your elbow will be covered by a bandage. You'll be given pain relief and will need to elevate the arm to reduce swelling. A week after surgery, a physiotherapist will suggest some exercises to help you move your arm. Full recovery should take three to six months.
Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

We're proud to work with leading experts across a range of medical fields, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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