Selective Thumb Carpometacarpal Joint Denervation Versus Trapeziectomy and Ligament Reconstruction With Tendon Interposition for Painful Arthritis: A Prospective Study With 2 Years of Follow-Up

J Hand Surg Am. 2023 Sep;48(9):853-860. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2023.05.015. Epub 2023 Jul 15.


Purpose: Thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint denervation is a relatively novel method for the management of osteoarthritis-associated pain by selective transection of articular nerve branches of the CMC joint. This study compared functional/patient-reported outcomes after CMC denervation with those after trapeziectomy and ligament reconstruction with tendon interposition (T + LRTI) over a 2-year follow-up period. We hypothesized that the outcomes of denervation and T + LRTI would be similar over the course of the study and at the final 2-year follow-up.

Methods: Adults with Eaton stage 2-4 disease, no evidence of CMC subluxation, and no history of thumb injury/surgery were included. Pain scores, brief Michigan Hand Questionnaire (bMHQ), Kapandji score, 2-point discrimination, and grip/key/3-point pinch strength were measured at 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-months after surgery. On average, T + LRTI patients underwent 7 weeks of splinting, with release to full activity at 3 months; denervation patients were placed in a soft postoperative dressing for 2 weeks, with release to full activity as tolerated at 3 weeks.

Results: Thirty-three denervation and 20 T + LRTI patients were included. Preoperative characteristics were similar between both groups. Two denervation patients underwent secondary T + LRTI during the study period; one denervation patient underwent fat grafting to the CMC joint at an outside institution. Data prior to secondary surgeries were included in the analysis. The average tourniquet times (minutes) for denervation and T + LRTI were 43.5 ± 11.8 and 82.7 ± 14.2 minutes, respectively. For denervation and T + LRTI, the postoperative bMHQ scores were significantly higher than those at baseline at all time points. No significant differences were found between both groups for bMHQ, sensation, or strength measures.

Conclusions: Carpometacarpal denervation is well tolerated, with shorter tourniquet times and faster return to full activity than T + LRTI. For the study cohort, the conversion rate to T + LRTI at 2 years was 9%. Both procedures demonstrated durable improvement in bMHQ compared with the preoperative state with similar long-term outcomes over 2 years of follow-up.

Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic II.

Keywords: CMC arthritis; denervation; ligament reconstruction with tendon interposition; prospective study; trapeziectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carpometacarpal Joints* / surgery
  • Denervation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / surgery
  • Osteoarthritis* / surgery
  • Pain / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tendons / surgery
  • Trapezium Bone* / surgery