As a physician with friends who have the dreaded “blackberry thumb”, a recent web search for thumb surgery alternatives turned up this illustration. This demonstrates a traditional tendon graft surgery where one of the bones at the base of the thumb is removed and a tendon is coiled up to add a cushion. No wonder my freinds are asking me about thumb surgery alternatives. I must say that this tendon transfer surgery is “nuts”. I remember a discussion with a plastic hand surgeon about blackberry thumb and what he had to offer. “Not much” was his reply, as he admited that traditional thumb surgery was pretty poor. We discussed stem cell alternatives to thumb surgery and he was excited, as he often talked patients out of thumb surgery for basal joint arthritis because of the poor results.
The CMC joint or “basal” joint of the thumb doesn’t have good prosthetic replacement options. In addition, since it’s nearly impossible to do much without a functional thumb, pain in this joint is much more disabling than other joints. If there ever was an easy joint to treat with adult stem cells, this would be it, as it’s small and doesn’t have to bear weight while healing. While an injection of stem cells into this joint may seem like science fiction, it’s already here (thumb surgery alternative). So don’t let anyone pull out an important bone in your hand if this thumb surgery alternative might work.