Wrist arthroscopy

Wrist arthroscopy is better known as "keyhole surgery" and allows your surgeon to look inside your wrist through a camera inserted through a small cut in the skin. This allows a diagnosis of any problems, probably cartilage related, and treatment using specially designed surgical instruments - often at the same time.

Wrist arthroscopy is usually done as a day case done under general anaesthetic and takes around 20 minutes.

Your surgeon will use a small frame to support your arm and fluid will be injected into your joint to help them perform the operation. Your arm will usually be in a tourniquet to reduce the risk of bleeding.

Two to four small cuts will be made about half a centimetre long around the wrist. A small telescope will be placed through one of the cuts and instruments will be introduced through the other cuts to treat any problems found.

Your surgeon can remove any lining of the joint if it is inflamed and it is usually possible to trim or repair a torn cartilage. At the end of the operation, your surgeon will close the cuts with stitches or adhesive plasters.

As you are admitted as a day case, you would normally be able to go home on the same day. Any stitches are usually removed about one to two weeks after the operation. Your physiotherapist may give you some exercises and advice to help you recover as soon as possible.

A wrist arthroscopy is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure but there are some potential complications you should be aware of.  These affect a very small percentage of patients.

  • Infection can occur although our theatres have ultra-clean air operating conditions keeping infection rates to the minimum.
  • Blood clots are possible after any operation and are more common in patients with some pre-existing medical conditions. However, again they affect a very small percentage of patients and have well established treatments including aspirin.
  • Very rarely, damage to the nerves around the wrist leading to numbness, pain and in some cases weakness in the forearm and hand - this usually settles on its own. 
  • The wrist arthroscopy may fail/ not give rise to the intended benefits of reduced pain and increased mobility in the wrist.

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH