Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your hand surgeon to look inside the wrist joint using small incisions (portals) and instruments. Wrist arthroscopy allows the hand surgeon to diagnose and treat the disorders of the wrist.
The wrist, also called a carpus, is a complex joint comprised of bones and joints, ligaments and tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that hold the bones together. A fibrous cartilage, present between the radius and ulna (forearm bones of the hand), separates the radioulnar joint from the rest of the wrist. The wrist connects the forearm to the hand and allows it to move. The carpal tunnel is an opening in the wrist through which the nerves and blood vessels pass.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that can treat common problems of the wrist, including carpal tunnel syndrome (when the nerves in the carpal tunnel are compressed), arthritis, bone fractures, dislocations, inflamed tendons and ligaments, ganglion cysts, and chronic wrist pain.
During arthroscopic surgery, the doctor will make several incisions near your wrist joint. Through one of the incisions, a small camera fixed to the end of a narrow fiber-optic tube is inserted. The camera magnifies and projects images of the wrist on a large screen monitor which helps in diagnosing the condition. Through the other incisions, surgical instruments are inserted to treat the problem area(s) of the wrist. A sterile solution is injected into the wrist to expand the joint that allows a clear view of the joint and provides extra room for the procedure. After arthroscopic surgery, the stitches are closed and dressing is applied.
After arthroscopic surgery, your hand surgeon will place a cast or a splint that immobilizes your wrist. This will prevent the movement of the wrist until it is healed completely following arthroscopy. The operated wrist should be elevated to prevent excessive swelling and pain. Ice (wrapped over a cloth) may be applied over the operated area which helps to reduce swelling. Medications may also be taken to reduce the pain. Always remember to keep the operated area clean and dry to prevent infection following arthroscopy.
Advantages of wrist arthroscopy include small incisions, minimal soft tissue trauma, fast recovery time, low infection rate, potential for less scarring, earlier mobilization, and it allows the patient to go home the same day as the procedure. There are also a few risks observed after wrist arthroscopy, including infection, damage to the nearby nerves or tissues, and stiffness. These can be treated through post-operative rehabilitation and exercises, intended to strengthen the wrist and rebuild strength.