Wrist Arthroscopy

Wrist Arthroscopy

The wrist is a vital joint you may take for granted until complications arise. When pain or a medical condition prevents you from using your wrist to its full extent, the team at OrthoBethesda in Bethesda, MD, may recommend a minimally invasive treatment called arthroscopic wrist surgery.

When you meet with your OrthoBethesda physician after experiencing a wrist injury, we may first recommend conservative treatment options like pain medication or physical therapy. If these fail, however, you can be sure that your doctor will walk you through your wrist arthroscopy treatment every step of the way.


What Is Wrist Arthroscopy?

A wide variety of injuries can impact your wrist. This complex joint is made up of eight small bones called the carpal bones, as well as connecting ligaments and tendons. Repetitive motion can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, or you may develop rheumatoid arthritis or a variety of other conditions.

Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure our surgeons use to view and diagnose issues within the wrist joint. The surgical treatment also allows us to treat existing problems.

An arthroscope is a thin tube with an attached camera, lens and light source. When inserted into the wrist joint, it allows your doctor to visualize and detect damaged tissue and other structures. The arthroscope combined with small surgical tools then enables your physician to treat any identified conditions.

Symptoms and Conditions Treated With Wrist Arthroscopy

When you come to OrthoBethesda with wrist complications, your physician may require wrist arthroscopy to diagnose your condition if you have the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Lack of mobility
  • Clicking or popping of the joint
  • The joint that gives way or becomes misshapen

Your physician may also recommend wrist arthroscopy as a method of treatment for:

  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic wrist pain
  • Wrist fractures
  • Tears to the ligament
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome

Your Arthroscopic Wrist Surgery

Wrist arthroscopy is generally performed using regional anesthesia. Although awake, you will feel no sensations in your hand or arm during the procedure. If needed, you may also be given a sedative so you stay relaxed.

Your physician first makes one or two small incisions about a half-inch in length on the back of your wrist. The location of these incision depends on the areas of your wrist that need to be visualized.

The arthroscope and specialized surgical instruments are inserted into the wrist joint through the incisions. Guided by the arthroscope’s images displayed onto a video monitor, your doctor will perform any repairs necessary depending on your wrist’s condition.

Once the wrist arthroscopy treatment is complete, the incisions are closed using small stitches, and a bandage is applied. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a splint for a short time after your procedure.

Wrist Arthroscopy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

When a patient who has rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experiences joint deformities at the wrist or on the hand and medication and therapy don’t produce the desired results, a surgical procedure is necessary. The deformities make it difficult to grasp, grip or pinch with the hands, which usually makes it difficult for the patient to perform daily activities.

During wrist arthroscopy for rheumatoid arthritis, the surgeon will have a chance to take out some ganglions of the wrist, clean out infection or remove the excess joint lining linked with inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. A tiny camera fixed to the tail end of a slim tube is placed into a small incision in the skin and pushed to the back of the wrist joint. This image goes on the screen for a clear view. Different incisions are used to enable the surgeon to position the camera at other positions to see the bone cartilage.

After the surgery, the wrist is placed in a bandage to prevent motion. This setup protects the area operated on and ensures faster pain relief. Since arthroscopy is done with regional anesthesia, it doesn’t usually require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight.

The fingers will be able to move freely, and you’ll be encouraged to move them often to prevent stiffness and swelling. Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions on how to take care of the incised area. You’ll also learn the simple exercises you can do and the activities you need to avoid. Elevating the wrist after the surgery will also help reduce pain and prevent swelling.

Recovery After Wrist Arthroscopy

Unlike open wrist surgery, which can take several months to recover from because of the larger incision, patients who undergo wrist arthroscopy generally recover within four weeks.

There are a few other advantages to this procedure, as well, such as less pain, faster healing time and no need for hospitalization. In fact, most patients can go home within several hours after their surgery.

Before going home, however, your physician will give you postoperative care instructions, such as:

  • Keep hand elevated above the level of your heart for two to three days after the procedure
  • Keep the bandage dry, clean and intact
  • Apply ice as needed to reduce discomfort and swelling
  • Use prescribed pain medications to relieve discomfort
  • Special exercises will be taught to you to help you regain wrist strength and mobility

Although complications are rare with wrist arthroscopy, some possible risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Numbness
  • Scarring
  • Injury to adjoining structures

Further Reading

Seven Recovery Tips for Broken Wrist Injuries

Hand Exercises to Try After Carpal Tunnel Surgery


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Learn About Wrist Arthroscopy at OrthoBethesda in Bethesda, MD

If you’re experiencing pain or complications to your wrist joint, we invite you to contact OrthoBethesda to meet with one of our highly trained orthopedic doctors. Patients in Bethesda, MD, and the surrounding area can receive personalized care which could include minimally invasive arthroscopic wrist surgery. Call us to schedule your appointment today at (301) 530-1010.