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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD003522. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003522.pub2.

Post-operative therapy for metacarpophalangeal arthroplasty.

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University of South Australia, Health Sciences, City East Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 5000.



Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) arthroplasty with implants, which is the replacement of painful knuckle joints with artificial knuckle joints, has been performed for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) since the 1960s. The surgery is done because RA can cause damage of the knuckle joints making them unable to straighten out (flexion deformity) and causing them to lean over toward the small finger (flexion or ulnar deviation deformity). For eight to 12 weeks following surgery, patients wear hand splints and perform exercises to maintain and increase motion in the healing hand. Post-operative therapy regimes share common aims of encouraging MCP flexion and extension without the recurrence of flexion or ulnar deviation deformity.


To compare the effectiveness of post-operative therapy regimes for increasing hand function after MCP arthroplasty in adults with rheumatoid arthritis.


The Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group Register, MEDLINE (January 1950 to August 2006), EMBASE (January 1993 to August 2006), CINAHL (January 1982 to August 2006), Digital Dissertations (January 1960 to August 2006), DARE (The Cochrane Library 2006, Issue 3), Current Contents Connect (January 1998 to August 2006), and AMED (January 1985 to August 2006) were searched for randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trials using rheumatoid arthritis and hand as the search terms. The bibliographies of all trials identified by this strategy were also searched and primary authors were contacted for unpublished data and also clarification regarding study protocols. We performed handsearches of all relevant society conference proceedings and reference lists of retrieved articles. No language limits were applied, although searches were only relevant after the 1950s when MCP arthroplasty began to be performed.


Randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trials were accepted if they evaluated the efficacy of a post-operative therapy regime for MCP arthroplasty.


No data analyses were performed as only one controlled clinical trial was found. The data from that study are described.


Our search only identified one controlled clinical trial involving 22 participants. The majority of the evidence for various splinting and exercise regimes consisted of case series and case studies. Results from the one (poor quality) trial suggest that the use of continuous passive motion is not effective in increasing motion or strength after MCP arthroplasty.


Well-designed randomised controlled trials which compare the efficacy of different therapeutic splinting programmes following MCP arthroplasty are required. At this time, the results of one study (silver level evidence) suggest that continuous passive motion alone is not recommended for increasing motion or strength after MCP arthroplasty.

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