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Wrist Arthroscopy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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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Further information

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