What is Wrist Arthroscopy?

Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to identify and treat disease or damage inside the wrist. A camera attached to an instrument called an arthroscope is utilized during the procedure.

Key statistics about Wrist Arthroscopy

  • More than 25,000 wrist arthroscopies are performed in the United States each year[1]
  • 58% of wrist arthroscopies are performed on men[1]
  • Complications occur in fewer than 5% of arthroscopic wrist procedures[2]

Wrist Anatomy

The wrist is formed by the proximal ends of the five metacarpal bones of the hand, the eight carpal bones of the hand, and the two bones of the forearm. Articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones, allowing them to glide smoothly against one another.

The wrist is also made up of many muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels.

3D rendering of the hand prominently displaying its bones with a focus on the Metacarpals and Carpals (otherwise known as the wrist bones)

Why is Wrist Arthroscopy performed?

Wrist arthroscopy is performed primarily to identify and relieve wrist pain associated with damage to cartilage, bone or soft tissue of the wrist. Problems may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Torn ligaments
  • Cysts
  • Bone fractures

Who needs Wrist Arthroscopy?

Individuals who have sustained an injury or degenerative condition of the wrist that has not responded to nonsurgical treatment may undergo wrist arthroscopy.

How is Wrist Arthroscopy performed?

  • The surgeon will make small incisions around the wrist and the arthroscope will be inserted into one of the incisions.
  • Saline solution is pumped into the wrist to expand it and improve visualization.
  • Images from the arthroscope are sent to a video monitor where the surgeon can see inside the joint.
  • Using the video monitor as a guide, the surgeon will locate the problem area and make a diagnosis.
  • Surgical repairs will be completed through the small incisions, or through a larger incision if necessary.
  • Finally, the saline solution is drained, instruments are removed, and the incisions are closed using sutures.

What are the risks of Wrist Arthroscopy?

It is uncommon to experience complications from wrist arthroscopy but potential risks may include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Tissue damage
  • Nerve damage

How long does it take to recover from Wrist Arthroscopy?

  • 24 hours after surgery
    Most patients are able to return home the same day as their procedure. Pain medication may be prescribed and a splint, cast, or brace may be provided to protect the wrist.
  • 1-3 days after surgery
    The affected hand should be iced and elevated.
  • 2 weeks after surgery
    Any non-dissolvable sutures are removed and bruising and swelling begin to subside.

What are the results of Wrist Arthroscopy?

Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that typically has a faster recovery time and fewer complications than open wrist surgery. Ultimately, the results of wrist arthroscopy depend upon the specific diagnosis and treatment.

Billig, J.I., Sterbenz, J.M., Zhong, L., & Chung, K.C. (2019). Gender Disparities in Preoperative Resource Utilization for Wrist Arthroscopy. Plast Recontr Surg, 142(5), 1267-1274. https://doi.org/10.1097/PRS.0000000000004840
Unger, T. & Anand, P. (2023, February 26). Wrist Arthroscopy. StatPearls (Internet). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555938/
Last edited on October 27th, 2023 5:39 pm