What To Expect When Going In For Arthroscopic Wrist Surgery

wrist surgeon check surgery

Surgery always comes with expectations and sometimes complications. What to expect from surgery may depend on the area in which the procedure will be done and its reason. Regardless of the type of surgery you are about to undergo, it is essential to be prepared and understand what you should expect. Here you will learn what to expect when going in for arthroscopic wrist surgery.

What Is Arthroscopic Surgery?

Before we cover what you can expect, let’s first understand what an arthroscopic surgery is. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat problems inside a joint. This surgery uses a camera called an arthroscope. Wrist arthroscopy is a wrist surgery that allows a doctor to see the inside of a joint. It is performed after a patient sustains an injury such as a fall or a twisting of the wrist and is experiencing pain, clicks or, swelling.

What Does Arthroscopic Wrist Surgery Treat?

Arthroscopic surgery can be used to treat several conditions of the wrist. You might need wrist arthroscopy if you have one of these problems:

Chronic wrist pain – arthroscopy allows the surgeon to explore what is causing your wrist pain. There may often be areas of inflammation, cartilage damage, or other findings after a wrist injury. In some cases, after the diagnosis is made, the condition can be treated arthroscopically as well.
Ganglion cysts – These cysts commonly grow from a stalk between two of the wrist bones. This is a small, fluid-filled sac that grows from the wrist joint. It is harmless, but it can be painful and limit your ability to move your wrist freely.
Wrist fractures – Small bone fragments may stay within the joint after a bone breaks (fractures). Wrist arthroscopy can remove these fragments, align the broken pieces of bone, and stabilize them using pins, wires, or screws.
Ligament tear – A ligament is a band of tissue that connects bone to bone. Several ligaments in the wrist help keep it stable and allow it to move. Torn ligaments can be repaired with this type of surgery.
Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear – the TFCC is a cartilage area in the wrist. Injury to the TFCC can cause pain on the outer aspect of the wrist. Arthroscopy can repair damage to the TFCC.

Description Of The Procedure

During the procedure, a small camera fixed to the end of a narrow tube is placed through a small incision in the skin directly into the back of the wrist joint. The incisions made are less than half an inch long. The three-dimensional images of the joint are projected through the camera onto a television monitor. The surgeon then watches the monitor as the instrument is moved within the joint.

Probes, forceps, knives, and shavers at the arthroscope ends are used to correct problems uncovered by the surgeon. Due to this, you will likely receive general anesthesia before this surgery. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain. Or, you will have regional anesthesia. Your arm and wrist area will be numbed so that you do not feel any pain. If you receive regional anesthesia, you will also be given medicine to make you very sleepy during the operation.

Before The Procedure

Before the surgery, make sure you do the following:

– Tell your surgeon what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
– You may be asked to temporarily stop taking blood thinners. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other medicines.
– Ask your health care provider which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
– If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions, your surgeon will ask you to see your doctor who treats you for these conditions.
– Tell your provider if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
– If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your provider or nurse for help. Smoking can slow wound and bone healing.
– Tell your surgeon about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness. If you do get sick, your surgery may need to be postponed.

On The Day Of Surgery

Make sure you do the following:

– Follow instructions about when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure.
– Take any drugs you are asked to take with a small sip of water.
– Follow instructions on when to arrive at the hospital. Arrive on time.

Following The Procedure

You will be going home after an hour or two in recovery on the same day of the surgery. However, you should have someone drive you home in case of drowsiness. You will likely receive instructions to follow, which may include:

– Keep your wrist elevated above your heart for 2 to 3 days to help reduce swelling and pain. You can also apply a cold pack to help with swelling.
– Keep your bandage clean and dry. Follow instructions on how to change the dressing.
– You can take pain relievers when needed if your doctor says it’s safe to do so.
– You may need to wear a splint for 1 to 2 weeks or longer to keep the wrist stable as it heals

Potential Risks

Risks may include but are not limited to the following:

– Infection
– Failure of surgery to relieve symptoms
– Damage to nerves, tendons, or cartilage
– Stiffness or loss of joint motion

Stiffness can be addressed post-surgery with rehabilitation.


During or after this type of surgery, complications are very unusual, but your doctor will still cover them with you before the surgery.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.