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The term arthroscopy basically means to look into the joint (arthro means joint, and scopy means look).  Over the past several years, the development of very small video cameras and specialised instruments have allowed surgeons to do more than simply take a look into the joint. The arthroscope is now used for actual surgical procedures.  Using the arthroscope to assist with joint surgery usually involves making smaller incisions into the joint than those made in a regular open-incision surgery.

Once the arthroscope is inserted into the joint, it is used first to try to see the problem. In this way, the problem can be confirmed before making any large incisions and causing any damage unnecessarily. Using the arthroscope as his eyes the surgeon can then use small specialised instruments inserted into the joint through other small incisions to perform the operation.

The surgeon debrides any tears of the meniscus that might catch against other joint surfaces. Then the surgeon looks for any problems with the ligaments. A probe is used to detect tension or laxity (looseness) of the ligaments. Laxity is a sign of injury.  Arthroscopic debridement works well for simple tears. Much of the damaged tissue can be removed while still keeping a stable wrist joint. The torn structures can be re-attached with repair sutures.

Some surgeons perform an arthroscopic wafer procedure in addition to the TFCC debridement especially when both TFCC disruption and positive ulnar variance are present. Some ligamentous ruptures with fracture can also be repaired arthroscopically with re-attachment and instrumentation. Instrumentation refers to the use of hardware such as wires and screws to help hold the repaired tissue in place until healing occurs.

After Surgery

Your wrist will be immobilised in a bulky dressing or cast.  Motion exercises are usually started five to seven days after the operation. Pain relief, improved motion, and increased function are the main goals of surgery for most patients. The surgeon is also interested in restoring wrist stability and the load bearing function of the wrist. After the initial soreness from the surgery is gone, you should experience a significant decrease in pain, many patients report being pain free. Some patients to return to full, unrestricted activity as early as six weeks post-op.