Unfortunately, there is little to no high-level evidence that invasive procedures like CMC joint surgery work well in most patients. While there are different high-level studies on the different surgical options and procedural choices available to surgeons, they are very small studies.
Additionally, most patients are under the false impression that, because surgery is often suggested as a last resort in the clinical decision tree, after more conservative treatment options like drugs or physical therapy, CMC joint surgery must be a definitive end to their pain problems. There is a common assumption that, after surgery, all of the patient’s thumb pain will subside and all normal hand function will return, pain-free. Sadly, the little research the medical community does have on these surgeries does not paint that picture of recovery.
On average, patients who have undergone CMC joint surgery will still have mild to mild-moderate pain in their joints. Even more concerning is the data that shows that patients also continue to report mild to moderate loss of hand function post-surgery. On top of all of these potential post-surgical outcomes, there is a very high complication rate of 22% in the most common method of CMC joint surgery, which is the aforementioned joint removal plus tendon insertion, or trapeziectomy and tendon interposition. As one can see, when the research is done, there is no lasting proof that CMC joint surgery will solve arthritic problems, and could actually cause lasting detrimental side effects.