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Wrist Arthroscopy: Before Your Surgery

What is wrist arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a way to find problems and do surgery inside a joint without making a large cut (incision). Your doctor puts a lighted tube with a tiny camera through small incisions. The camera is called an arthroscope, or scope.

Wrist arthroscopy can treat several problems.

  • For arthritis, your doctor smooths the rough surfaces of your wrist bones. Inflamed or thickened tissue may also be removed.
  • For a wrist that does not move easily, or feels as though it locks, your doctor may repair or take out a loose piece of cartilage or bone.
  • For a broken wrist, your doctor can put the bones back in the correct positions.
  • For a wrist with pain and limited movement, your doctor may find and remove scar tissue. Or a growth called a ganglion cyst may be removed.

You probably will go home on the day of the surgery. When you can go back to your usual routine depends on your wrist problem. You may need about 6 weeks to recover. It may take longer if you had damaged tissue repaired. You may have to limit your activity until your wrist strength and movement are back to normal. You may also need physiotherapy or occupational therapy.

If you have a desk job, you may be able to go back to work a few days to a few weeks after the surgery. If you lift things or do physical labour at work, it may be 1 to 2 months before you can go back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Wear a shirt that is easy to put on and take off. Your wrist may have a large bandage or be in a sling after surgery.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 2 hours.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.
  • You may wear a sling for comfort if the doctor says it is okay.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.