Considerations When Performing Arthrodesis in the Scleroderma Hand

Chao Long, Jung Ho Gong, Scott D. Lifchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hand deformities secondary to scleroderma can limit activities of daily living and be associated with substantial disability. This study aimed to evaluate the outcomes following arthrodesis performed to treat digital contractures secondary to scleroderma. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all patients with scleroderma who underwent arthrodesis by a single surgeon from 2015 to 2020. We collected demographic information, operative variables, and outcomes variables. Our primary outcome was occurrence of any postoperative complication, which we defined to include wound dehiscence, digital ischemia, malunion, nonunion, cellulitis, and osteomyelitis. We calculated descriptive statistics and performed all analyses at the joint level. Results: We identified 9 patients who underwent arthrodesis of 19 joints. All patients were women with a mean age of 55.3 years. At the time of surgery, most patients were taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Kirschner wires (K-wires) were used in most cases (n = 18), 15 of which were removed uneventfully at an average of 4.8 months after surgery. With a mean follow-up time of 15.4 months, the overall complication rate was 5.3% (n = 1). This patient developed digital ischemia in 1 of 4 operative digits, which became gangrenous and required amputation. Conclusions: Our study suggests that arthrodesis can be performed safely in the scleroderma hand, even when patients are taking DMARDs. Given the uneventful K-wire removal in all joints and the high risk of exposure of buried hardware in this population, we recommend nonpermanent placement of K-wires. Hand surgeons may consider arthrodesis in the scleroderma hand before proceeding to revision amputation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-521
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023


  • anatomy
  • arthrodesis
  • diffuse cutaneous scleroderma
  • hand
  • joint contracture
  • limited cutaneous scleroderma
  • scleroderma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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