BY TOBY PORTER
A patient has become the first person to be given a totally new wrist.
Julie Richardson, 43, from Croydon, had the operation at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
She had been in constant pain after being diagnosed with Kienböck’s disease – a rare, debilitating condition which develops when one of the central bones in the wrist loses its blood supply.
As a result, the bone dies and begins to crumble away, causing chronic pain and arthritis.
A total wrist replacement was recommended to relieve Julie’s pain, and to preserve motion in her wrist and hand.
She said: “I’m delighted with the result and so grateful to Shamim Umarji and the whole team at St George’s who were involved in my surgery and aftercare.
For years I struggled to do everyday tasks, so to have a wrist I’m able to move again is really life-changing.
The consultants explained to me that it was going to be the first-ever time they’d carried out this type of procedure, but it didn’t worry me at all – I trusted them and knew they wanted it to be a success just as much as I did.
“The first sign of Kienböck’s disease was when my wrist became swollen and stiff about five years ago. I struggled to bend my wrist and it became really painful to do simple tasks such as doing up buttons or picking up anything too heavy.”
St George’s is one of the few centres in the UK to offer this type of surgery, which is more complicated than a hip or knee replacement because of the complex structure of the wrist joint.
A surgical team of 10, led by orthopaedic surgeon Shamim Umarji and expertly assisted by plastic surgeon Sonja Cerovac, worked for four hours to remove damaged cartilage and bone in Julie’s wrist, and insert an artificial metal joint.
A new wrist joint can be expected to last 10 to 15 years with careful use, compared to 20 years or longer for a new hip or knee.
Shamim Umarji said: “A total wrist replacement is a complex operation which requires enormous precision to ensure the new joint is correctly aligned and well balanced.
Traditionally, the only surgical option available has been to fuse the wrist, which removes the pain but also restricts wrist movement.
It’s excellent that we’re able to offer this type of surgery at St George’s, allowing Julie to use her hand again after years of pain.
Wrist replacements are a great option for people who aren’t going to be doing heavy work, as the implant will wear out quickly if it’s subjected to excessive load.”
“Julie will have to do regular exercises under the guidance of the hand therapy team at St George’s to regain strength, full motion and function, but we’re already thrilled with the outcome.
After just 10 days post-surgery it was fantastic to see Julie moving her wrist again without any pain.”