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Improving surgery for wrist arthritis

Development of new surgical techniques could maximize wrist function and symptom relief, and delay wrist arthritis progression

Dr. Nina Suh

Lawson associate scientist Dr. Nina Suh is leading a study to improve the surgical technique for four-corner fusion, a common surgery for wrist arthritis.

St. Joseph's Health Care London - 

Wrist arthritis can cause debilitating pain, weakness and decreased range of motion. When patients are first diagnosed, the condition can often be managed with activity modification and pain medication. However, as symptoms progress, patients eventually require surgery.

Surgeons typically perform a procedure called four-corner fusion to preserve wrist motion and provide pain relief.  This surgery involves removing one of the carpal bones and fusing four of the remaining carpal bones. Although this procedure is one of the most common treatments for wrist arthritis, it is not known how the position of the fusion of the wrist bones affects range of motion and joint contact.

Lawson associate scientist Dr. Nina Suh is leading a study with the goal of improving the surgical technique for four-corner fusion to maximize wrist function and symptom relief, and delay wrist arthritis progression.

Dr. Suh and her team will use a customized active-motion wrist simulator to create different carpal bone fusion positions. They will then assess how these positions affect wrist motion and joint contact area.

“We hope this research will lead to new surgical techniques that will help us to more effectively manage wrist arthritis with four-corner fusion,” says Dr. Suh, who is also an orthopaedic surgeon at the Roth McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre (HULC) at St. Joseph’s Health Care London and an assistant professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “The project will also advance our understanding of wrist biomechanics, providing a foundation for the development of enhanced patient-specific surgical tools, such as custom wrist fusion devices and implants.”

Image of the customized active-motion wrist simulator Dr. Nina Suh and her team are using to create different carpal bone fusion positions. They will then assess how these positions affect wrist motion and joint contact area.

The study is being funded through the Lawson Internal Research Fund (IRF), designed to allow scientists the opportunity to obtain start-up funds for new projects with exciting potential.

“The IRF program is valuable for scientists as external funding sources routinely require preliminary data to strengthen applications,” says Dr. Suh. “Particularly for new scientists such as myself, these grants provide seed funding that allows us to demonstrate the validity of our methodology and the clinical usefulness of our results.”

The IRF is designed to provide Lawson scientists the opportunity to obtain start-up funds for new projects with the potential to obtain larger funding, be published in a high-impact journal, or provide a clinical benefit to patients. Funding is provided by the clinical departments of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, as well as the hospital foundations (London Health Sciences Foundation and St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation).

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