Wrist Arthroscopy Overview

Arthroscopy has changed the way wrist conditions are diagnosed and treated. A complex joint with eight tiny bones and many connecting ligaments, the wrist has probably derived the greatest benefit from arthroscopy than any other joint in the body.

The small instruments and magnifying camera are able to maneuver through delicate areas and small passages, while capturing and projecting an enlarged three-dimensional image of the delicate wrist joint onto a monitor screen for optimal viewing.

Wrist arthroscopy is indicated for a number of wrist conditions and may be used as both an exploratory procedure and treatment option. Wrist arthroscopy can help identify the root cause of chronic wrist pain by identifying inflamed areas within the joint, or cartilage damage. Once identified, arthroscopy is also used to repair the area. Wrist arthroscopy is also effective in the treatment of wrist fractures, ganglion cysts, triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) damage and ligament tears. And wrist arthroscopy is effective in a carpal tunnel release for patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

In order to determine the patient's need and the manner in which arthroscopy will be used, a number of tests assessing the physical pain a patient experiences while moving the wrist are performed. Imaging studies are also done, including X-rays and possibly a magnetic resonance image (MRI).

The Procedure
Wrist arthroscopy is generally performed using a regional anesthesia, which numbs the arm and hand areas only. The arthroscope is inserted through two or more small incisions, or portals, made at the back of the wrist.

Following the procedure, the incisions are closed with a small stitch. Dressing is then applied, and a splint may be used. The patient is instructed to keep their wrist elevated for the first few days in order to minimize swelling and keep bandages clean and dry.

While there are rarely complications in wrist arthroscopy and the risks are minimized with a hand specialist, they may include nerve and tendon injury, infection, and excessive swelling or bleeding.