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Tight Rope Anchor Suspension for Thumb Arthritis

June 16, 2016

The joint in the thumb is one of the most common places to develop arthritis, in part because of how frequently it is used and also because it endures more pressure than other joints when the hand is used. Arthritis of the thumb is more common among women than men, but both sexes are susceptible to the condition.

People who have arthritis of the thumb typically experience pain in the palm, the base of the thumb, the back of the thumb, or the top of the wrist. The pain makes it difficult to turn the key to the car, open jars, or engage in any other activity that involves gripping with the thumb.

Tight rope anchor suspension is used for treatment of arthritis of the thumb. It is created by making a small incision at the base of the thumb to remove the trapezium bone, which is the cause of the arthritic pain. Next, small holes are drilled at the base of the thumb and the base of the index finger, allowing the doctor to weave the tight rope anchor through the base of the thumb and out of the base of the index finger. The anchor is then secured to the base of the thumb. Once inserted, the tight rope anchor reduces pain, maintains normal motion of the thumb, and improves grip strength.

Sometimes a tendon graft, in which the tendon in the arm called the palmeris longus is extracted and moved to the thumb area, is used to supplement the tight rope anchor suspension. Following the tight rope procedure, the thumb is splinted for two to six weeks. After twelve weeks, full motion is restored to the thumb. The tight rope anchor should last for the remainder of the patient’s life, supporting increased mobility and decreasing pain.

Many people who opt to undergo a tight rope anchor suspension are in their late 50’s or early 60’s, or sometimes younger if something like a fracture has accelerated the degeneration of the thumb.