What is an arthroscopy of the wrist?
Arthroscopy of the wrist involves surgical visualization to diagnose and treat disorders of the wrist joints. The use of a fiber-optic instrument, known as an arthroscope, helps the surgeon to visualize the inner parts of the joints. The wrist is a complex joint that consists of eight bones and various connecting ligaments.
When is wrist arthroscopy indicated?
Wrist arthroscopy is indicated in diagnosing and treating several conditions as follows:
- Chronic wrist pain
- Ligament (a band of the tissue that connects two bones) tears
- Wrist fractures
- Ganglion cysts (a noncancerous lump that develops in the joints of the wrist and hands)
- Carpal-tunnel release (a nerve that passes through certain bones and tissues gets swollen and inflamed)
- Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear (tear of TFCC, a cartilage area in the wrist)
How to prepare for wrist arthroscopy?
You need to follow the below instructions before the surgery:
- Provide your medical and medication history to the physician
- Stop taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), and Aleve (naproxen), and other medicines
- Refrain from alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking before the surgery
- Inform your physician about illness such as cold, flu, fever, or herpes breakout, or other illnesses
How is wrist arthroscopy performed?
Wrist arthroscopy is generally performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia. The physician inserts the arthroscope through a small incision in your wrist. The scope is connected to a video monitor.
As the scope advances, the physician examines all tissue—cartilage, ligaments, and bones. If there is damage in the joint, the physician inserts other tools to repair it. Finally, the physician gently withdraws the instruments, closes the incision, and covers it with a bandage.
What to expect after wrist arthroscopy?
After wrist arthroscopy, you
- Can go home the same day of the surgery
- Should elevate your wrist for two to three days after the surgery, apply ice packs to relieve swelling, and keep the bandage clean and dry
- Should take some pain medications to relieve pain
- Should wear a splint for one to two weeks to keep the wrist stable
What are the complications of wrist arthroscopy?
Complications of wrist arthroscopy are as follows:
- Wrist weakness
- Tendon injury (injury to the tissue connecting the muscle to bone)
- Excessive pain
- Skin peeling
- Tourniquet neurapraxia (temporary loss of sensory function due to blocked nerve conductions)
- Neuroma (nerve tumor)
- Compartment syndrome (a life-threatening condition, where pressure builds up in the arms)
- Finger joint injury
- Excessive swelling
- Bleeding or scarring
How long does it take to recover from wrist arthroscopy?
Wrist arthroscopy uses small cuts. Hence, recovery would be faster. You can resume your normal activities in a few days.
However, if the surgery was complex and involved too much repairing, then healing would take several weeks. Gentle exercises of the hand and fingers can restore normal functions of the wrist.