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Wrist arthroscopy

Arthroscopy of the WristWhat is an arthroscopy of the wrist?

An arthroscopy (also called keyhole surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside your wrist using a camera inserted through small cuts in the skin. They should be able to treat some problems using surgical instruments.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The main benefit of surgery is to confirm exactly what the problem is and, in many cases, to treat the problem at the same time.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

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.

What does the operation involve?

A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. The operation usually takes about twenty minutes.

Your surgeon will usually make about two to four small cuts around the joint. They will place a small telescope through one of the cuts so they can examine the joint. They will place surgical instruments through the other cuts if they need to treat any problems with the joint (see figure 1).

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • Bleeding into the joint
  • Infection in the joint
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Damage to nerves
  • Damage to tendons

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

Your physiotherapist may give you exercises and advice to help you to recover from the operation. It can take a few weeks to get back to normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people who have treatment have a major improvement. However, it does take time for pain to lessen and movement to increase. Symptoms often come back with time.

Summary

An arthroscopy of the wrist allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat problems affecting the joint, without the need for a large cut in the skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery after surgery.

Author: Prof. John Stanley MCh Orth FRCS (Ed.) FRCSE and Mr Adam Watts FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

Copyright © 2016 EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre.

The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace any advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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