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Wrist arthroscopy

The word “arthroscopy” comes from the Greek words “arthros” (joint) and “scopos” (to look). In today’s terms, it is a surgical procedure which allows surgeons to view the inside of joints and the spaces surrounding them, through small 'key holes' in order to detect and treat damaged tissue. An arthroscope is a thin (less than 3mm) instrument with fibre-optic fibres. These fibres beam light into your joint and project a picture to a television monitor similar to watching a live programme on television.

Because wrist arthroscopy requires only small incisions, most patients should recover more quickly and with less post-operative pain than with open surgery. Usually all wrist arthroscopies are performed as day-case surgery.

What happens during and after surgery?

Once your wrist is numb or you are asleep, incisions will be made into the wrist. These portals will allow the surgery to be performed. The wrist has eight bones in roughly two rows which makes two joints so the arthroscopy will inspect both joints so there is a minimum of two incisions but potentially up to four. These incisions will be closed with steristrips (butterfly strip).

You may experience some swelling and discomfort during the first few days after the operation so I recommend a sling for 48 hours and your activity will be temporarily restricted. Pain medication will usually be advised. You can usually return to work within 10 days depending on the pathology that was found or treated and your job.

Understanding the risks of wrist arthroscopy

As with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications. They do not occur very often in arthrosopy but include: anaesthetic issues, infection, excessive bleeding or swelling, nerve/tendon damage or persistent pre-operative symptoms due to the underlying disease.