Finger Fusion Surgery - worth it to play again?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Road Hat, Apr 10, 2014.

  1. Road Hat

    Road Hat Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2008
    Old Hangtown, USA
    I've got crippling arthritis in my fingers, especially the first two on the right hand, that has left me unable to play without a LOT of pain. I haven't been able to really play bass (other than whole or half notes) for almost two years. No fun. Frankly, I'd resigned myself to not being able to play bass again, but after recent discussions with a new doctor, there seems to be hope. He said that he could perform a fusion of the knuckles nearest the fingernail, and that he could fuse them in 'playing' position.

    So, does anyone have experience with this kind of surgery? The rehab, etc., is pretty arduous, but the thought of a) no more pain or deformation/nodules and b) that I could possibly play again has me pretty excited. I'm not sure how well I would be able to play with fused fingers, but heck, maybe I need to slow down anyway (having been accused in the past of overplaying).

    What say ye?


  2. there might be some serious draw backs to permanently positioned really need to think it through.....i'd hate to be the guy that told someone to go to that length only to find less invasive solutions appear down the road....
  3. Dug2

    Dug2 Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    in a werd......yes. good luck, let us know of your decision/progress.
  4. groundhog


    Jan 23, 2014
    I honestly have no clue. Just remember, there is more things in life than playing bass. If this could affect you a lot in ways outside of bass, then it isn't worth it imo. But that's up to you to decide, not me.
  5. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    I'd think long and hard before doing anything permanent. I'd also want to see if there were other ways I could feel musically fulfilled -- a different instrument, a new kind of project, etc.

    That said, my father was semi-pro trumpet player his whole life. Last year he had this strange bacterial infections in his gums that could have prevented him from ever playing again. We think it's gone now, but the thought of never being able to play again was just incomprehensible.

    If it were me I'd search out less drastic alternatives, personally. But it's not me, it's you!
  6. jay tay

    jay tay

    Aug 12, 2009
    Manchester UK
    Do what your heart tells you, and good luck!
  7. Skeptismo


    Sep 5, 2011
    I had to have my left hand ring finger tendon reattached in 2012, after a sports injury. It took about three months before I picked up my bass, and still don't have the same dexterity that I did before. However, I can play.
    If your Ortho gives you a good recommendation on successful surgery, I'd take it.
  8. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Your decision alone. None of us know you or your situation well enough to offer advise on anything this important.
  9. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008


    For what it's worth, I saw a kid killing on bass once using just one finger. I think Jamerson primarily used one finger too(?).

    Wish you the best of luck whatever you decide.
  10. G00D+~VIBES


    Nov 21, 2008
    Kansas City
    Are you able to play with a pick?
  11. Have you thought about having the procedure done first on a less important finger, say the little finger?
  12. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    Speaking strictly for myself, I'd do it. Playing bass is my life. It's how I define myself. I introduce myself as a bass player. I've got it tattooed on my body. If I couldn't play for whatever reason, but someone offered me the chance to play again, I'd do it, regardless of the cost.

    Again, I'm only speaking for myself. You'd need to decide if it's worth it to you. If it IS worth it, then good luck to you!
  13. Road Hat

    Road Hat Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2008
    Old Hangtown, USA
    Thanks for the feedback and kind words. I've been trying to learn slide guitar, but I stink at it. I started playing bass almost 40 years ago, and it's been the only instrument that I found 'my' voice on. I probably have too much emotion/ego invested in it, but it's been my Constant Companion and Comforter. At this point, I'm afraid that extreme measures are my only remaining options, other than to continue to watch my fingers disintegrate. It helps, though, to get feedback from the community - I know that the folks here get where I'm coming from.

    I see the doc again tomorrow, as the insurance company just denied his prescription for new medications. It's funny - they'd rather pay for an operation than medicine. :meh:

    Thanks again - much appreciated!
  14. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    A little more on that. I'm 79 years old and have had my share, and more, of operations. The new AHC act is awash in paperwork and the insurance companies do seem to hunt for reasons to not allow the exact Rx the doctor orders, however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    There is something called "prior approval" that the doctor can utilize; saying this specific drug is needed in your specific case. Might see if that changes things. It's just one of the loops we now must jump through.

    As a side note. I do have better insurance at less cost with the new AHC act, but the loops getting there were/are madding.

    Good luck.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The point of fusion procedures are to immobilise and stabilise structural problems to relieve symptoms.

    In you case the symptoms are pain over mobility.
    For the procedure to be successful for you you need the outcome to be pain free.
    It can be assumed that without pain you will use the motion more therefore the mobility will return, so one of the benefits could be better motion.

    The downside is there is no reduction in pain, so no motion benefits will be apparent, but you will have endured a procedure that cannot be reversed.

    The not so apparent side of all this is your insurances companies roll in all this.

    Your insurance company, as a rule, is allowed to offer solutions that protects/ reduces their losses/liabilities.
    So your insurance company can offer a "full and final" settlement on your policy to resolve their own interests.....not yours.

    So in offering an operation they can claim/show they are being pro active in your case.
    If of course you refuse, then it can be shown that you are not considering all options and as such the insurance company can withdraw/refuse treatments of medications they deem expensive to them.
    So in all it is not about your needs for treatment, but the insurers right to reduce their out goings costs.

    Now insurance companies will offer treatments of procedures based on probability of outcome to reduce their liability, as well as maintain a duty to you...the two are not always mutually benefited to you.

    I would look very carefully over the reasons behind any operations benefit before i would consider it.
    But on the other hand you may have no choice because the the insurance company can withdraw the cover as you are not pro active in looking for a solution by refusing their offers of are refusing to get well, so why should they fund your decision?

    It is a complicated area with complicated and mitigating circumstance that sometimes require legal advice/intervention to en-sure the best results benefit you physically and are not based on financial savings.

    Do your own research and formulate your own questions to ask about it...make an informed choice.
    This link may help you and lead you to other search ideas you may get from it.....Good luck and i hope all work out for you.
  16. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Talk to others who've had the same procedure. Your orthopod may be able to link you with others who may share their experiences. I've given my neurosurgeon permission to provide my name to candidates for a particular procedure which I underwent last August.

  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Sorry but i ran out of time earlier, but i wanted to add, post your problem on the DB side as well, and as well as ask about experience ask for any insurance senarios.
    On both sides of this forum there are players who play as a hobby, or in a semi pro capacity.
    If any of them work within either the medical, insurance or legal profession they may be able to offer relevent advice.
    If you are a union member, ask your rep to look over the situation, after all a situation like yours is why you pay your dues, you want relevent representation to your situation.

    Good luck in finding a solution and becoming pain free.