Hand clinic offering additional type of treatment for arthritis sufferers

Ely Hand Clinic, headed by Alex Reid (L) now offers an additional type of treatment for patients with arthritic pain

Ely Hand Clinic, headed by Alex Reid (L) now offers an additional type of treatment for patients with arthritic pain in their thumbs. Allen Richer (R) was treated as a day patient under general anaesthetic at the clinic and says he is now "pain free". - Credit: Addenbrookes

Ely Hand Clinic, run by Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is now offering an additional type of treatment for patients with arthritic pain in their thumbs. 

The clinic opened back in October 2021to enable East Cambridgeshire patients to be treated closer to home.

The new procedure on offer involves replacing the joint at the base of the thumb with a precision-made ball and socket implant made of stainless steel and polyethylene (titanium for nickel allergic patients).

Although the implant is not suitable for everyone, research shows it can speed up recovery and improve the mechanical function of the arthritic thumb. 

One patient who was suitable is 57-year-old father of two Allen Richer, from Royston, who was treated as a day patient under general anaesthetic at the clinic, which is next to the minor injuries unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital. 

Allen said: “I could not believe how quickly it all healed up, and how soon I became pain free. 

“My wife is delighted too – it saves her from continually having to open packets, packages and bottles for me!” 

Allen Richer, 57, from Royston who was treated as a day patient at Ely Hand Clinic.

Allen Richer, 57, from Royston who was treated as a day patient at Ely Hand Clinic. - Credit: Addenbrookes

The standard treatment for the condition in the UK is a trapeziectomy which involves removal of bone at the base of the thumb. 

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Other treatment options can be as straight-forward as anti-inflammatory drugs to steroid injections. 

Allen added: “I suffer from similar problems in my other thumb and although I know there is going to be a bit of a wait, I am really looking forward to getting it sorted out and being pain free in both hands.” 

The new treatment is being carried out by consultant plastic and hand surgeons, Alex Reid and Tereze Laing. 

Alex, who heads the clinic, said: “The important thing is to have at our disposal a comprehensive range of treatments so we can apply the most appropriate one to each patient. 

Consultant plastic and hand surgeon Alex Reid.

Consultant plastic and hand surgeon Alex Reid. - Credit: Addenbrookes

“Many clinicians have concerns over the limitations of trapeziectomy, in particular the recovery time, the variable gains in pinch strength, and the difficulties in revising the procedure in the event of a poor outcome. 

“However, not all patients are suitable for the prosthesis since ideally the next joint along should not be arthritic and the trapezium bone must be big enough for the replacement to sit in.” 

Any GP wishing to refer a patient to the clinic should continue to do it the usual way through the department of plastic surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but mark attention to Alex or Tereze. 

Consultant plastic and hand surgeon Tereze Laing.

Consultant plastic and hand surgeon Tereze Laing. - Credit: Addenbrookes