Wrist Arthroscopy

What is a wrist arthroscopy?

A wrist arthroscopy, or a keyhole surgery, is performed to allow a surgeon to see inside the wrist in order to diagnose and treat problems of the joints, cartilage or ligaments. Using a small thin telescope called arthroscope, the consultant can inspect any damage caused to the wrist that is not visible on scans, and then repair them with special arthroscopic instruments.

Arthroscopy is a recommended procedure over typical surgery because the cuts are much smaller and thus they don’t cause a big damage to the soft tissue, with minimal pain, swelling and stiffness.

What does the operation involve?

Wrist arthroscopy

When you meet with your consultant surgeon they'll ensure that you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your wrist arthroscopy, they'll discuss with you what'll happen before, during and after the procedure and any pain you might have. Take this time with your consultant surgeon to ensure your mind is put at rest.

Most wrist arthroscopies are performed using a regional block. The operation usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the condition of the wrist.

The consultant will make about two to four small cuts around the joint and insert the arthroscope through one of them and insert fluid to clear the area. The image will be projected on a screen for better viewing. 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?

Any operation has a risk of complications such as pain, extensive bleeding, infection in the surgical wound, Unsightly scarring. A wrist arthroscopy can have specific complications such as

  • 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 later on the same day.

Your hand and fingers will be bruised for a period after the surgery and you may experience pain around the wound area. The wrist will swell for up to 2-3 weeks after the surgery buy will gradually disappear.

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.

Paying for your operation

A wrist arthroscopy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

*Revised and updated November 2016

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