What Is a Wrist Arthroscopy?

Christina Whyte

Wrist arthroscopy is a surgical procedure which is used to see inside the wrist joint with a small camera called an arthroscope. This may be used to locate the cause of a wrist problem or to aid in surgery, such as a torn ligament or bone fragments from a wrist fracture. There are several advantages to wrist arthroscopy, but there are a few risks as well. Recovery after a wrist arthroscopy is usually relatively easy and uncomplicated.

Protective bandages are often used for wrist arthroscopy recovery.
Protective bandages are often used for wrist arthroscopy recovery.

Minimally invasive surgeries, such as wrist arthroscopy, are often preferred over conventional open surgeries whenever possible. The incisions are smaller in minimally invasive surgeries, so the recovery time is shorter, less prone to complications, and less painful for the patient. Observation is done using a camera and a television screen rather than observing the activity of the instruments directly through an open incision. This type of surgery is not always the best choice, and the specific details of a patient's condition may lead the surgeon to recommend other procedures.

During a wrist arthroscopy, the patient will usually be given local anesthetic so that only the hand and arm are numb. A sedative will sometimes be given, particularly if the patient is nervous or requests it. At least one, but usually two or three, small incisions are made in the back of the wrist, and the arthroscope is inserted along with any needed surgical instruments. After surgery is complete, the instruments will be removed and the incisions will be closed with one stitch each.

The recovery period after a wrist arthroscopy is usually uneventful, and most patients go home the same day unless extensive or complicated surgery was done. It is important to keep the hand and wrist elevated for the first day or few days, which helps to prevent swelling and pain. Patients will receive a splint or protective bandage, and should follow the doctor's instructions about how long to wear the protection. Pain can be managed with analgesic medication, and is not usually a major problem.

Choosing a competent, experienced surgeon is essential to a good outcome in any surgery. Complications are possible in all surgical procedures, such as bleeding or infection, but serious problems are rare in wrist arthroscopy. There is a very slight chance of nerve or tendon damage during surgery. Some stiffness is possible, and patients should perform any recommended exercises and attend any recommended physical therapy sessions.

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