What is arthroscopic debridement of the hand or wrist?

Arthroscopic debridement is a procedure that lets doctors see inside your wrist and hand joints through small incisions. The doctor uses a camera to navigate through the joint. They remove debris and irritants in the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Arthroscopic debridement is common for knees and shoulders. The wrist is the third most common joint to have this procedure.

With arthroscopy, the doctor only has to make a small incision over the joint. That means the recovery time is shorter than with an open surgery. Arthroscopic debridement doesn't affect your soft tissues as much. You may have less pain, swelling and stiffness in your hands and wrists as you recover.

What to expect from arthroscopic debridement

Your doctor may perform arthroscopic debridement in an outpatient setting. You can go home the same day that you have your procedure. The doctor administers either general or local anesthesia so that you won't feel any pain. You may or may not be fully asleep.

The doctor starts by making a small incision in the back of your wrist to insert the camera. It projects images from inside your wrist onto a television screen. That way, the doctor can see your joint clearly. Your doctor makes several other small incisions to insert the rest of the surgery tools. The doctor cleans out any damaged tissues from the joint. The procedure takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

After the surgery, you wear a bandage on your hand or wrist. This protects the incisions and keeps your wrist stable in the early days of recovery. Elevating your wrist prevents swelling, as does moving your fingers.

Common conditions requiring arthroscopic debridement

Arthritis is a degenerative condition that causes inflammation in your joints. There is firm tissue called cartilage between the bones. It acts as a cushion when a joint moves. As the cartilage breaks down, movement becomes painful. Doctors often use arthroscopic debridement to remove the broken down cartilage. While it's not a cure for arthritis, it does help relieve pain and improve function.

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