For Carol Oliver of Yucca Valley, the pain was constant. The busy mother and homemaker has lived with a degenerative form of arthritis for more than 20 years. By the time she was in her thirties, simple tasks such as opening a jar and even turning a door knob meant excruciating pain. "I would wake up in the morning with stiff joint pain especially in my right hand," she recalls. "Being right handed, you can imagine what I was dealing with." As the years went on, the pain became more constant and intense.
Most people are familiar with joint replacement surgery for the hip, knee and shoulder joints. Replacement surgery in the wrist is less common and a relatively new procedure. It can be an option for those with painful arthritis that does not respond to other treatments. According to Dr. Seip, Carol was an excellent candidate for wrist replacement surgery because of her commitment to physical therapy.
"The goal of the surgery is to improve wrist function," says Dr. Seip. "As the arthjritic wrist becomes more severe and unresponsive to pain killers and other non-surgical treatments (such as physical therapy), wrist replacement is a very viable, very reliable way to rid the pain and improve function."
According to Dr. Seip, the typical candidate for wrist replacement surgery has severe arthritis but does not need the wrist to meet heavy demands in daily use. The primary reasons for the surgery are to relieve pain and to maintain function in the wrist and the hand. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, results from a gradual wearing away of the cartilage covering the bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that results in pain and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects several joing in both the right and left sides of the body. Both forms of arthritis may affect the strength of the fingers and hand, making it difficult to grip or pinch. Wrist replacement surgery may enable patients to retrain or recover wrist movements and the ability to perform daily living activities.
Wrist implants are made of the same kind of materials used for hip and knee joint replacement. There are several different designs. Most have two components and are made of metal. The minimally-invasive surgery can be done on an outpatient basis, unlike hip and knee replacement surgeries. Wrist replacement surgery is often combined with other procedures to correct deformities in the tendons, nerves and small joints of the fingers and thumb. Carol recently underwent a second surgery to correct a deformity in the thumb of her right hand, also the result of her arthritis.
She is also recovering nicely from both surgeries, and says that for the first time in more than 20 years, she is experience no pain in her wrist. "My range of motion has improved, and I can now do everyday activites that used to be painful," says Carol.
Calling the whole experience miraculous, Carol also lauds the Hi-Desert Medical Center. "My overall experience has been wonderful, including my hospital stay," she says. "I've been to HDMC before, and I love this hospital. The people are great and the care I receive is excellent." But most of all, Carol is grateful for Dr. Seip. "To find an orthopedic surgeon of his caliber up here in the Hi-Desert . . . unbelievable . . . I am thankful for Dr. Seip every day!"
Carol is taking her recovery one day at a time, and is committed to physical therapy and home exercises with the hope of increasing the range of motion in her hand. "I'm thrilled I had this surgery and would recommend it to anyone who is living with joint pain and arthritis," she says. "Even if you don't regain full range of motion, to be able to live with less pain or even pain free? It's worth it!"
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