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Wrist & Hand

High re-operation and complication rates 11 years after arthrodesis of the wrist for non-inflammatory arthritis

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Plate and screw fixation has been the standard treatment for painful conditions of the wrist in non-rheumatoid patients in recent decades. We investigated the complications, re-operations, and final outcome in a consecutive series of patients who underwent wrist arthrodesis for non-inflammatory arthritis.

Patients and Methods

A total of 76 patients, including 53 men and 23 women, with a mean age of 50 years (21 to 79) underwent wrist arthrodesis. Complications and re-operations were recorded. At a mean follow-up of 11 years (2 to 18), 63 patients completed questionnaires, and 57 attended for clinical and radiological assessment.


Of the 76 patients, 46 (60.5%) had complications, resulting in 65 re-operations, mainly related to the plate and screws. In the 63 patients who completed the questionnaires, the mean Quick Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand (QuickDASH) score was 36 (0 to 91), the mean Patient-Rated Wrist and Hand Evaluation (PRWHE) score was 40 (0 to 96), and 14 patients (22%) reported no wrist pain. Grip strength, pinch strength, and pronation and supination were significantly reduced compared with the contralateral forearm. The outcome was worse in patients who had previously undergone surgery to the wrist, and those with complications. A total of 13 are awaiting further re-operations, giving a total re-operation rate of 63% (40/63).


We observed complications and re-operations throughout the follow-up period and therefore consider wrist arthrodesis to be more complicated than previously assumed. Many of the patients never got used to or accepted their stiff wrists and reported a substantial reduction in function and residual pain. Motion-sparing surgery should be offered prior to wrist arthrodesis.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:852–859.

Correspondence should be sent to O. Reigstad; email:

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