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Wrist arthroscopy is an extremely useful tool in the investigation and treatment of wrist pain and associated problems. It can often be difficult to determine what the cause of pain in the wrist is. Performing an arthroscopy allows the surgeon to visualise the bones within the wrist, examine the cartilage and ligaments and aids in diagnosis and further management. Specific problems may be dealt with when found.

What are the risks in treatement of wrist pain?

The risks are low, but include:

  • Infection – risk is low and responds well to antibiotics.
  • Wrist Pain – This usually settles within 48 hours and is usually mild to moderate..
  • Stiffness – approximately 5% of patients may have problems with increased stiffness and pain in their wrist. This is not possible to predict but is treated with physiotherapy and painkillers.
  • Swelling – As water is used to allow the surgeon to see throughout the operation there is swelling after the operation, but this does settle within 2 – 3 days.
  • Nerve injury – Localised numbness around the wound may occur. It usually resolves with time.
  • Tendon Injury – As the camera and instruments used are passed around the tendons, they can be injured, but the risk is low (around 1 in 100).

How is the operation for wrist pain performed?

You will normally attend hospital on the day of surgery.

The choice of anesthetic will be discussed by the anesthetist, but may be a general anesthetic, where you are asleep, or a nerve block where your arm is numb, supplemented with sedation if required.

The procedure involves passing a small camera into the wrist joint. It is performed through 3-5 small <5mm incisions over the back of the hand/wrist.

Afterwards there is a large bulky dressing that can be reduced at 48 hours. It is usually as daycase procedure, which means you will go home the same day.

What should I expect about my recovery?

While in the initial bandage or cast, you will have limited use of your hand. When you are seen at the clinic approximately two weeks after the operation, your wound will be cleaned and any visible stitches removed. There may be bruising and swelling.

If the procedure has been diagnostic only, in other words no reconstructive procedure has been undertaken, movement and function as possible within the first few days.

When can I return to driving and work?

Usually after 2 weeks, but the final decision must be made on an individual basis.

Patient Leaflet Download

Download a patient information leaflet on Wrist Arthroscopy from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

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