162017May

When You Need Wrist Surgery

Complex and very flexible, the wrist is a fascinating joint that allows you to paint, knit, write, do the dishes, drive a car and perform many other activities. So when your wrist is injured or hurts, daily life can become very difficult, especially if it’s your dominant hand. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery at the Florida Hand Center.

Anatomy of a Wrist

Although we refer to the wrist as a single joint, you might not realize it’s actually made up of eight different bones. Two of them are the lower arm bones (the radius and the ulna) while the remainder are actually hand bones. Each plays a role in your ability to bend, straighten and rotate your wrist. Despite the high number of bones, the wrist has few muscles. Instead the bones are joined by ligaments that connect to muscles in the lower forearm. The wrist is also the area where the radial, median and ulnar nerve run from the forearm to the hand. Wrist surgery can include any or several of those structures.

Do I Need Wrist Surgery?

Injuries are the most common reason for surgery on the wrist. It’s instinctive to put out your hand when you fall, but that means the wrist takes the full brunt of your body weight at the time of impact. Small wonder that a bone breaks under those conditions. Other common reasons for wrist surgery include rheumatoid arthritis, which can cause deformities that will only become worse with time. The median nerve runs through a tight “tunnel” and can become compressed – carpal tunnel surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and restore function.

What’s a Wrist Surgery Procedure Like?

If you need wrist surgery, you generally have two options. The first is traditional open surgery in which the surgeon makes a single relatively large incision, performs the surgery and stitches the wound closed. The second option is what’s called arthroscopic surgery, using a special tool with a small camera on the end. The advantage of arthroscopic surgery is that it only requires two small incisions – one for the camera and one for the surgical tools. There is less trauma to tissues and healing time is usually shorter. Your surgeon will work with you to determine the best choice.

How Long Will Recovery Take?

In most cases, the actual surgical procedure will take an hour or two and you can go home the same day (you’ll need a driver, however). You might have a local anesthetic, a nerve block or general anesthesia. Surgeries required because of a traumatic injury typically take longer to heal because of the swelling and tissue damage. You can expect to wear a brace or need a cast or splint postoperatively for many wrist surgeries. Physical therapy is the norm to help ensure proper wrist function. Full recovery usually takes six weeks to a few months.

Please contact us if you have a condition you think needs surgery. We can answer any questions and schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.