Chrisie’s Thumb Replacement Story

I had the pleasure of speaking to one of our thumb replacement patients this morning. Chrisie, from Bristol, has a lovely, familiar west-country accent that is as naturally recognisable as her obvious zest for life and positive personality.

Having had a total hip replacement a few years ago, at just 51, Chrisie knew about the benefits that joint replacement could bring: pain relief from arthritis, improved movement, and the ability to return to work and enjoy daily activities. With a role in learning and development, specialising in leadership and behavioural skills, and a keen participant in gym classes, spinning and yoga, Chrisie has a demanding lifestyle, like many of us. So, when she started getting pain around the base of the thumb joint of her right hand, she didn’t want that to hold her back, and she quickly sought the professional opinion of Bristol consultant hand surgeon, Mr Raj Bhatia.

Chrisie explained: “I researched surgeons and wanted to see Raj Bhatia because he regularly treats sportsmen and women as part of his practice. Even more importantly, Mr Bhatia specialises in conditions of the hand and wrist, so I knew even before I met him, that he was the surgeon for me.”

During the consultation, Mr Bhatia and Chrisie discussed the option of trapeziectomy, where the painful part at the base of the thumb joint is partially or totally removed. This will eventually lead to pain relief and some return of function, but it takes a long time and is not always practical for people who want to get back to a full, active work and social life.

An advocate of thumb replacement surgery, also known as carpometacarpal (CMC) joint arthroplasty, Mr Bhatia told Chrisie that she was an ideal patient for such a procedure, which has the benefit of offering quick return to activities with pain-free, complete movement of the thumb joint. Mr Bhatia uses the Touch® CMCJ thumb replacement, which was launched in 2014 and has been implanted into over 10,000 patients worldwide.

Chrisie jumped at the chance to have a mini-hip replacement put into her thumb, and on the 21st February, she underwent the quick procedure at the Spire Bristol Hospital.

Having previously compensated for her right-hand pain by performing tasks like opening jars or picking up keys with her left hand, Chrisie was delighted that, after the operation, she was able to use her right hand again, with no pain and great range of movement. The Touch® thumb replacement features a stable ball & socket design which helps improve function and makes the thumb feel comfortable and natural when performing everyday tasks.

Touch(R) CMCJ Thumb Replacement X-Ray
This first cast allows for any postoperative swelling.
“I wasn’t able to put any pressure on my right thumb before having a thumb replacement. If I tried to do the ‘downward dog’ position in a yoga class, the pressure I put on the hand would send a sudden shooting pain into my wrist. I couldn’t even cup my right hand over the lid of a jar before the joint replacement operation. Now the strength is returning, and I can open a big jar of something like pickled beetroot without having to ask my husband!”
After 2 weeks, Chrisie was able to get her nails "back to normal" with a styish, colourful manicure.
Then the cast was removed. A hand brace was available to use if required, but Chrisie hardly wore it as she wanted to build up movement in her hand.
Before she had her thumb replacement, because using a computer was difficult and painful, her company installed voice-recognition software on her computer, so she didn’t have to use the keyboard and mouse with her painful thumb. “It took a while to understand my west-country accent, but it soon learnt how I speak and actually ended up making fewer mistakes than when I typed!” Chrisie took two weeks off work following the procedure, and then returned to her job, where she can now use the computer without any pain – although she still admits to using the voice-typing feature occasionally.
8-weeks after the operation, Chrisie's scar has healed beautifully.

Chrisie’s new thumb has given her confidence and comfort in her hand again. She laughed as she recalled: “I ‘go off’ when I walk through the airport metal detector, and now I have to tell the security guard that it could either be my hip or my thumb!”

Then the doorbell rang on her end of the line as her online shopping delivery had arrived – Chrisie is currently on coronavirus-enforced lockdown with her husband, who has to be particularly careful to stay shielded as he had a kidney transplant a few years ago. I am very grateful that she kindly agreed to send me some pictures and videos of her using her hand. It’s a thumbs up for CMC replacement and for Mr Bhatia!