If you are experiencing pain, swelling or persistent clicking within the wrist, your consultant may recommend a wrist arthroscopy to investigate or treat the cause of your pain.

What is an arthroscopy of the wrist?

A wrist arthroscopy (also known as keyhole surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside the wrist by using a thin tube with a camera that is inserted through small incisions in your skin, without the need to fully open up the joint or make large incisions.

If you have recently sustained an injury or fallen on your wrist, your surgeon can perform an arthroscopy to repair torn ligaments, remove damaged tissue or realign fractures.

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What does a wrist arthroscopy involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic and takes about thirty minutes.

Your surgeon will usually make about two to four small incisions around the wrist joint. They will place a thin telescope (camera) through one of the incisions so they can examine the joint in detail and place surgical instruments through others if they need to treat any problems with the joint.

Are there any alternatives to a wrist arthroscopy?

Problems inside a joint can often be diagnosed using tests such as CT and MRI scans. However, you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.

Physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can sometimes prevent or delay the need for an arthroscopy. Your consultant will generally advise you of your options and be able to recommend the treatment suited to your needs.

What complications can happen?

As with any procedure, there can be risks associated with surgical procedures and general anaesthetic. General side effects such as pain, bleeding or difficulty passing urine are most often temporary and should ease over time. However, should any unexpected or longer term side effects arise, please do not hesitate to contact the Horder Healthcare team to help correct them.

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine (as a result of anaesthesia)

Specific complications

  • Damage to nerves and tendons around the wrist
  • Developing a lump under the wound
  • Infection and bleeding in the wrist joint
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)
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Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Acknowledgements
Prof Adam Watts (MBBS FRCS)
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The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Systems International and is licensed by Horder Healthcare. The information should not replace the advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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