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Patient Information

Wrist Arthroscopy

The procedure

Arthroscopy is an operation to examine the inside of your wrist joint. It can help diagnose problems by directly visualising the bones and ligaments. It can also be used treat specific problems by performing procedures inside the wrist joint. The operation is generally performed under general anaesthetic (asleep) or a regional anaesthetic block of the arm. It is a daycase procedure meaning you are unlikely to need to stay overnight.

Risks of the operation:

  • This is a safe procedure though as with all surgery there are some small risks.
  • Infection 1%
  • Nerve or tendon injury
  • Complex regional pain syndrome. This is a rare condition which is not thoroughly understood but involves disturbance to the circulation and nervous system of the hand. This can happen after any hand injury or surgery. This leads to abnormal sensations, feeling and stiffness. Most people do not get this condition. Of those that do, it can be problematic though the vast majority get better with medication and hand therapy.
  • Pain and or stiffness
  • Painful scar
  • Non resolution of symptoms

Before the operation

You will see Mr Avis or Mr Hobby before the procedure when you are admitted to the ward. They will recap discussions from clinic and discuss the intended benefits and any risks involved. You will then be asked to sign a consent form if this has not already been done in clinic.

The Operation

A small telescope called an arthroscope will be inserted into the back of the wrist through  small incisions. This is used to see inside the wrist joint. Further small incisions (generally 4 in total) are made to allow instruments to be passed into the joint to perform the operation. The wounds are generally closed with paper stitches and a bulky bandage applied.

After the Operation

At the end of the procedure, the joint will be filled with a local anaesthetic, which makes the wounds more comfortable. This wears off after several hours and you may then feel some discomfort. It is advisable to take painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen after your operation.

Although the incisions are small, it is not unusual to get some discomfort and aching in the wrist afterwards. This may be the case for several weeks and depending on the procedure can take a few months to fully settle.

Severe or continuous pain should be reported to us or your doctor.

The bulky dressing is generally removed after 5 days, with small sticky dressings then covering the incisions. This can be done by the patient, GP practice nurse or in our treatment room.

Return to activities

You should be able to get back to office-type work about two weeks from the date of the procedure but if you do heavy manual work you may need to be off for 4-5 weeks.

Driving after an operation on your hand should only be considered when the dressings have been removed and you are able to grip strongly using all of your fingers and without any discomfort, thus being in control of your car.


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