Arthroscopic Wrist Surgery

Your wrist is a complex joint made up of eight small bones called carpal bones. These bones are connected and supported by ligaments. Various conditions can affect your wrist joint such as carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.

Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to view, diagnose and treat problems of your wrist joint.


Wrist arthroscopy may be necessary to help in diagnosing:

  • Stiffness
  • Unexplained pain
  • Swelling 
  • Giving way or popping of the joint

Wrist arthroscopy is also used to treat conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic wrist pain
  • Wrist fractures
  • Ligament tears
  • Ganglion cysts 
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome

Surgical procedure

Wrist arthroscopy is usually performed under regional anesthesia. You will be awake, but will feel no sensation in your hand and arm during the procedure. You may be given a sedative to keep you relaxed. 

Your doctor will make one or two small half-inch incisions on the back of your wrist. Portals are placed in specific locations on the wrist, depending on the areas that need to be visualized. The arthroscope and special surgical instruments are inserted into your wrist through these portals. The arthroscope is a thin tube with a camera, lens and light source. Your doctor will be guided by the images relayed from the arthroscope onto a video monitor throughout your procedure. Your doctor will perform necessary repairs depending on your particular problem.

After the procedure, the portals are closed with small stitches and a dressing is applied. You may be instructed to wear a splint for a short time after the procedure.

Postoperative care

The following are a few instructions that will help in the postoperative care of your wrist and recovery.

  • Keep your hand elevated above the level of your heart for the first 2 to 3 days after your procedure.
  • Keep your bandage clean, dry and intact.
  • You may apply ice over the operated area to reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • You will be instructed on special exercises to regain strength and mobility of your wrist.
  • You will be prescribed pain medications to relieve any pain.


Recovery following wrist arthroscopy is generally more comfortable for the patient than with open surgery, which requires a larger incision. There is usually less pain following the procedure and the healing time is faster when compared to an open procedure. Wrist arthroscopy is performed as a day surgery where most patients are able to go home within several hours after their surgery.

Risks and complications

Complications are fairly rare with wrist arthroscopy. However, some of the possible complications that can occur include scarring, bleeding, swelling, infection, numbness and injury to the adjoining structures.