Background: Patients with symptomatic recalcitrant thumb carpometacarpal arthritis often undergo surgery. Although most surgical patients do well, the authors anticipated that a substantial portion of their thumb carpometacarpal surgery patients would have unsatisfactory experiences and express unmet expectations, dissatisfaction, and regret, regardless of surgical procedure performed. The authors hypothesized those experiences would correlate with patient-reported outcomes scores. Methods: The authors identified patients who had undergone trapeziectomy alone or with ligament reconstruction 1 to 4 years previously for primary thumb carpometacarpal arthritis. One hundred twelve patients completed Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand and visual analogue scale pain, expectations, satisfaction, and regret questionnaires. Results: More than 40 percent of patients expected to "return to normal" after surgery for pain, strength, and/or function. Including all patients, 7, 19, and 11 percent had unmet expectations for improvement in pain, strength, and function, respectively. Twelve percent expressed dissatisfaction with their outcome. Although just 4 percent regretted undergoing surgery, 13 percent would likely not recommend the procedure to someone they care about. There were no statistically significant differences for any patient-reported outcomes between trapeziectomy-alone (n = 20) and trapeziectomy with ligament reconstruction (n = 92). Visual analogue scale and Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire scores were both moderately correlated with expectations being met for pain, strength, and function and for satisfaction with surgical outcome. Conclusions: Patients' thumb carpometacarpal surgical experiences vary considerably. Many express dissatisfaction or a lack of expectations met with the two most common procedures. A thorough understanding and review of expectations preoperatively may be uniquely pertinent for these patients. Further research should determine predictors and potentially modifiable factors for unsatisfactory outcomes.
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