What is Wrist Arthroscopy? Overview, Benefits and Expected Results
Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat problems within the wrist. It is most commonly used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist pain, chronic wrist injuries or structural problems. This type of surgery can also be used to repair tendons, remove bone spurs, and to diagnose more serious conditions including tumors and arthritis.
The procedure is performed by making several small incisions, usually on the back of the wrist. The surgeon then inserts a tiny camera, typically connected to a monitor, in order to clearly view the inside of the wrist. Additional instruments may be inserted into other incisions for the repair or to remove debris.
What are the Benefits of Wrist Arthroscopy?
The main benefit of wrist arthroscopy is that it is minimally invasive, with less risk of damage to nearby structures than an open carpal tunnel release.
Other advantages of using this technique include:
- Less postoperative pain and swelling
- Decreased risk of infection
- Shorter recovery time than open surgery
- More precise view of the joint space
- Ability to diagnose and treat multiple conditions during a single procedure
The results vary depending on the condition and the severity of the symptoms. Patients can expect improved range of motion and reduced pain, as well as improved wrist and hand function. In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, patients can expect a decrease in nerve irritation and tingling, as well as the alleviation of numbness.
The recovery time varies depending on the procedure. Generally, most patients can resume regular activities within two weeks. It is important to follow specific postoperative instructions such as avoiding strenuous activity for a few weeks and protecting the wound from contact with water or dirt.
Practical Tips & Case Studies
Here are four practical tips for those who are considering arthroscopic surgery:
- Talk to your doctor to make sure you understand the procedure and have realistic expectations.
- Find a qualified and experienced surgeon who is familiar with wrist arthroscopy.
- If you have arthritis, speak with your doctor to determine whether arthroscopy is suitable for you.
- Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether the procedure is covered by your plan.
It is important to hear the actual experiences of people who have had wrist arthroscopy. Here are some stories from patients who have undergone the procedure:
- ”I had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome over two years ago, and the pain relief was immediate. I still have occasional stiffness or discomfort, but it is manageable. It was definitely worth having the surgery.” - Rachel B.
- ”I had arthroscopic wrist surgery to repair a torn ligament. I was a bit nervous, but it was a quick procedure and I had minimal pain. I went home the same day of the surgery and was able to get back to my regular activities in no time.” – Adam S.
- ”I had wrist arthroscopy five years ago to treat wrist pain due to tendonitis. The procedure helped a lot and I’ve been able to keep the pain in check with regular stretching and exercises. I’m glad I decided to have the surgery.” – Stacy M.
Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is used to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions within the wrist. The main benefits of this procedure are less postoperative pain and discomfort, shorter recovery time, and improved wrist and hand function. Those considering this procedure should speak to a doctor to understand the risks and ensure they are an appropriate candidate.
Definition and Overview
Wrist arthroscopy can be either a diagnostic or surgical procedure; it can be performed to diagnose, treat, repair, or manage any problem involving the wrist. It is conducted using an instrument known as arthroscopy, a flexible narrow tube that is equipped with a camera that provides real-time images of the wrist and its various parts, such as the tissues, bones, and joints. The procedure is often performed by an orthopedic specialist or surgeon.
Injuries to the wrist have become one of the leading joint-related problems in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there were at least 185,000 cases of occupational injuries affecting the wrists and hands in 2012 alone. More than 30,000 of them were caused by sprains and tears while 17,000 were due to fractures.
Usually an outpatient procedure, wrist arthroscopy doesn’t require general anesthesia. Also, since only small incisions are made, recovery is quicker and easier while the risks and complications are often minor and rare.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
People who are involved in jobs that require consistent or regular use of the hands, fingers, and wrists are possible candidates for the procedure. These include workers who spend a lot of time typing on keyboards as they are prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Patients who were diagnosed with sprains, tears, and fractures can also be treated with wrist arthroscopy.
Any pain or discomfort felt on the wrist may be checked using this method. This is especially necessary if the pain continues despite medications and other treatments employed. Sometimes standard X-rays cannot catch issues, so the best way to determine is to look inside the wrist. The doctor may also request the exam if previous tests are inconclusive or if more information is needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
Certain types of infection on the limbs can have an impact on the wrist, and the test can indicate the extent of the condition as well as help surgeons determine the most appropriate form of treatment.
Other candidates for this procedure are people who develop ganglions, which are small sacs filled with fluid. Although they are benign, they can cause wrist pain and thus, have to be removed.
The procedure doesn’t take more than an hour to complete. Right after the procedure, the patient’s wrist is bandaged to restrict its motion, although fingers should still be free to move. Depending on the severity of the procedure and the condition, therapy or rehabilitation may follow as soon as the wrist has completely healed. Meanwhile, the doctor may provide medications for pain relief during the recovery stage.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Wrist arthroscopy can be divided into two parts. The first part is the diagnostic wherein the doctor reviews the patient’s concerns, symptoms, and medical history. Other tests, such as wrist rotation, may also be performed if more information is needed before the surgeon can decide if wrist arthroscopy is needed. If it is, local anesthesia is applied to the arm and wrist. Depending on the patient’s anxiety level, the surgeon may also elect to provide sedation.
At least two incisions are made on the wrists. This is where the arthroscope is gently inserted. Meanwhile, the camera attached to the probe sends live feedback to the computer screen. The doctor can then discuss the condition based on observations from the test to the patient during the procedure.
At this point, the doctor has the option to end the test and prescribe non-surgical treatment, such as when the cause of the pain is an infection. Otherwise, the second step begins, which is surgery.
Surgery can be performed to repair fractures, align joints and bones, fix tears of the ligaments, and free pinched nerves as in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Cysts can also be removed in the process. If there are already damaged tissues, they will also be removed. The scope can go through tissues so it can carry out more intensive surgery using miniature tools.
After the surgery has been completed, the incisions will be stitched, and the wrist is covered with a bandage.
Possible Risks and Complications
Risks and complications due to the procedure are not usual. If they occur, they are often minor and gradually disappear a few days after the procedure.
Often, patients will experience wrist stiffness and discomfort due to the bandage that restricts movements. Because of the incisions, the wrist can also be prone to infection. In rare cases, wrist arthroscopy leads to damage to the nerves, cartilages, and tendons.
- Osterman AL, Lincoski C. Wrist Arthroscopy. In: Skirven, TM, Osterman AL, et al, eds. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap. 77.
- Part SJ III. Wrist. In: Wolfe SW, Hotchkiss RN, Kozin SH, Pederson WC, eds. Green’s Operative Hand Surgery. 6th ed.Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingston; 2010:chap 14.