What Is Wrist Arthroscopy Surgery

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 4:32pm
Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff MD This post was written with the expertise of Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff MD, a Hand Surgeon from Houston, Texas.

Do you have a wrist injury that refuses to heal? Are you an athlete that wants to get back in the game as soon as possible? Your doctor may have suggested wrist arthroscopy surgery. In this article, I will explain what it is, and give you useful information that will help you through the process.

What Is Wrist Arthroscopy Surgery?

Wrist arthroscopy is a very simple surgery that is done as an outpatient and is often the most effective way to view and fix an injury directly.

During the surgery, the doctor will make a small incision in the wrist, normally just a few millimeters in length. Then he will insert a small camera, with the diameter of a pencil, to be able to go explore the inside of your wrist.

According to Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff, M.D., an arthroscopy gives us the ability to see and access components of the wrist that, just a few years ago, required much more painful, invasive surgeries for the patient.

Although it is non-invasive, the doctor performing this surgery requires specific skills and tools to be able to do it right. Just like a knee or shoulder arthroscopy, a small camera is placed on a fiber optic tube and inserted into the wrist. To doctor will then be able to see the inside of your wrist on a screen.

The surgery will last anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. To be able to view and repair the entire problem, more than one incision may need to be made.

I found this detailed video on YouTube that explains in detail what the surgery entails and even shows you a video of the surgery. This is helpful to know exactly what to expect.

Is Wrist Arthroscopy Surgery Right for Me?

There are many reasons why a doctor may suggest wrist arthroscopy surgery. Although most injuries will respond to other treatments such as rest, pain medication and physical therapy, sometimes the surgery is necessary.

The reasons why a wrist arthroscopy may be performed are:

  • To examine chronic pain in the wrist. When pain in the wrist goes undiagnosed after other tests, your doctor may want to do an arthroscopy. This will allow him to get a better view of what is wrong. Once the issue is diagnosed, it can often be fixed by arthroscopy as well.
  • To repair ligament or TFCC tears. When there is a tear in either of these, movement will be difficult and painful. With a wrist arthroscopy, the doctor can go fix these tears.
  • To fix serious fractures that won’t heal. When there is a fracture, it is not uncommon for fragments of bone to remain in the wrist. With the surgery, the doctor will be able to remove these and realign the bone.
  • To help with carpal tunnel. Carpel tunnel is essentially pressure on the nerve in the carpal tunnel that causes numbness, tingling and pain in the wrist, hand, and arm. When unresponsive to other treatment, the doctor would do an arthroscopy to make the tunnel bigger, thus removing pressure on the nerve.
  • To remove a ganglion cyst in the wrist. These cysts will form from a stalk between two bones in the wrist. During the procedure, the doctor will remove these stalks which will help prevent the cysts from returning.

What are the risks of Wrist Arthroscopy Surgery?

As with any medical procedures, there are always risks involved. In this case, they include:

  • Infection
  • Nerve, tendon, or cartilage damage
  • Stiffness in the joint, or difficulty moving it

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, although stiffness is common following the surgery, this can be fixed with physical rehabilitation following the surgery.

What to Do After the Surgery?

After spending maybe an hour in the recovery room, you will be heading home with instructions on what do to next. As with any surgery, make sure you have somebody to drive you home.

For the next few days:

  • Keep your wrist higher than the level of your heart to decrease inflammation and enhance circulation
  • Apply ice to your wrist a few times per day to lower the swelling
  • Follow your doctor’s orders regarding pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medication
  • To speed up the healing and recovery, your doctor may ask you to wear a brace or a splint

According to Medicine Plus, within a few days, you could be back to resuming your regular activities with little to no pain in your wrist.

Wrist arthroscopy surgery is a very low risk surgery that can help many types of wrist injury or pain. Compared to the surgeries they had to do before this technology was available, it is a very quick and easy way to fix an injury that may never be fully fixed otherwise.

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