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Wrist Arthroscopy


What you need to know about a wrist arthroscopy:

A wrist arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside your wrist with an arthroscope. This is a thin tube with a light and camera on the end. Your healthcare provider may also fix problems in your wrist during the procedure.

How do I prepare for a wrist arthroscopy:

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI before your procedure. These tests will take pictures of your joint and help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery. Ask the person to stay with you for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. Tell your provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to antibiotics or anesthesia.

What will happen during a wrist arthroscopy:

  • You may get general anesthesia to keep you asleep and pain-free during your procedure. You may instead get a regional block that numbs your wrist. Your elbow will rest on a table. Some of your fingers will be placed into devices to keep your hand and fingers pointed up. This will make it easier for your surgeon to work on your wrist.
  • Your surgeon will make small puncture sites around your wrist. The arthroscope will be inserted into one of the puncture sites. Your surgeon will examine your wrist joint in pictures shown on a monitor. He or she may insert tools into the puncture sites around your wrist. The tools may be used to repair damage, such as a fracture or a torn ligament. Tools may also be used to remove swollen or loose tissue. Fluid may be removed. The joint may also be cleaned out. Your surgeon may close the puncture sites with stitches or medical tape and cover them with a small bandage.

What will happen after a wrist arthroscopy:

You may need an x-ray to check your wrist joint. Healthcare providers will watch for complications. Do not move your wrist until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You will be given instructions on movements to avoid. You may also be given exercises to do to strengthen your wrist and increase your range of motion. You may then be able to go home. Your wrist may have a light bandage wrapped around it, and you may need to keep your arm in a sling. You may have numbness or problems moving your hand for 12 hours after surgery. This is normal and should get better within a day.

Risks of a wrist arthroscopy:

You may get an infection in the surgery area or in the wrist joint. Nerves, ligaments, tendons, or blood vessels may be damaged during your procedure. You may have trouble moving your wrist, or it may be permanently stiff. You may develop compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. Compartment syndrome happens when swelling or bleeding increases pressure in and between muscles. This stops blood from flowing to the area and causes muscle and nerve damage. You may also get a blood clot in your arm. This can become life-threatening.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your arm feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your wrist or arm more than 24 hours after surgery.
  • You cannot move your arm or fingers.
  • Your wrist is stiff more than 24 hours after surgery.
  • The skin on your arm or hand becomes pale or turns blue.
  • You have sudden, severe pain anywhere in your arm or hand.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have pain that is not helped with pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as red streaks, swelling, or pus in the surgery wound.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your incision wound as directed:

Keep the bandage on your wrist clean and dry. Do not remove your bandage until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to take a shower or bath. He or she will tell you when to change the bandage. Look for signs of infection, such as red streaks, swelling, and pus. Check for infection every day.


  • Apply ice as directed. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your wrist. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Do not grip or lift with your operated hand as directed. You may damage your wrist if you grip or lift items after surgery. Do not grip items tightly or carry anything with the hand on your operated wrist. Do not put weight on the wrist.
  • Use a wrist brace as directed. You may be given a brace after surgery. The brace will help protect your wrist. Your healthcare provider may want you to wear it for a few weeks.
  • Ask when you can return to your daily activities. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to start driving, return to work, and do other activities.
  • Do not play sports until your healthcare provider says it is okay. For most sports, recovery will take 4 to 6 weeks. Your healthcare provider will create a return to sports plan for you. The plan will depend on the kind of sport you play. Some sports, such as gymnastics and martial arts, require a lot of wrist activity. Recovery may take longer than for a sport that does not use as much wrist activity. Start slowly. Work with your healthcare provider, physical therapist, and others involved in your sport. A new injury could severely damage your wrist.
  • Go to physical therapy if directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen your wrist and increase range of motion.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to come in to have your sutures removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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