Custom wrist replacements

January 27, 2009 3:16:58 PM PST
Seventy million people are suffering from arthritis. Many of them deal with pain in their wrists. Until now, they were fitted with bulky, one-size-fits-all wrist replacements. Now, doctors have found a way to personalize each replacement and save money doing it. From cleaning the yard to more simple tasks, everything David Gray did was painful.

"I could have severe pain by pulling a handkerchief out of my pocket," Gray said. "Washing my face, shaving, just routine matters would bring on severe pain."

He started feeling arthritis in his right wrist four years ago.

"It's the kind of pain that literally disables you," Gray said.

The cartilage was basically gone and bone rubbed against bone.

"This one little joint here can be very problematic if it gets arthritic, and it's the joint that's responsible for allowing you to be able to do this," said Dr. William Seitz, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Seitz fit Gray with a new customized stainless steel wrist replacement. Dr. Seitz created the new wrist implants himself out of necessity for the patient and the hospital. Traditional wrist replacement parts cost about $5,000. The new customized wrists cuts that in half. Many wrist replacement parts were too big or too small for patients causing an uncomfortable fit. The new implant adjusts for size and takes just five days to make.

Dr. Seitz uses tools he also invented for the surgery.

"We can essentially give this individual a wrist that rotates, flexes, extends, deviates in both directions and doesn't hurt," Dr. Seitz said.

Gray says he's not the only one who feels a difference.

"One of the biggest responses I get when I shake hands with people is, 'Great grip, Dave!'"

The alternative to wrist replacement is wrist fusion, but that takes away all motion. Dr. Seitz has also created a customized elbow replacement, which works in the same way. It's being used in patients at the Cleveland Clinic and across the country.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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