What Should I Expect from Wrist Surgery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2019
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Wrist surgery can be conducted for a wide range of reasons. It helps to know what to expect from surgery before it happens, as knowing what is going to happen can ease stress and fears surrounding surgery. Because there are many different types of wrist surgery, patients should talk with their surgeons about the specifics of their surgery to learn more about what will happen during and after surgery. They should make sure to task about potential complications and outcomes, and how long the aftercare will be.

As soon as surgery is recommended, the patient will be asked to undergo tests to confirm she or he is a good candidate for surgery. These can include x-rays of the wrist which will be used by the surgeon to develop an appropriate approach to the surgery, along with blood work to check for any medical problems. The patient also meets with the surgeon and anesthesiologist to talk about what will happen during the surgery. This provides an opportunity to ask questions. The patient should also disclose any and all medications being used, as some may be contraindicated for surgical patients. Blood thinners, for example, can cause complications during surgery.


Once the patient is cleared for surgery, an appointment will be scheduled. The patient is asked to refrain from eating or drinking the night before, although necessary medications cleared by the surgeon can be taken with a small sip of water. When the patient arrives at the hospital or surgical clinic, he or she will be asked to remove all jewelry and change into a hospital gown. Patients are usually encouraged to bathe at home before coming in, or to bathe in the hospital's facilities.

After dressing for the occasion, the patient is given a mild sedative while an intravenous line is placed to provide venous access. Then, the patient can be brought into the operating room for the purpose of inducing anesthesia so that the surgery can take place. In minimally invasive wrist surgery, the surgeon will use several small incisions to introduce tools and a camera for viewing the surgery. In open surgery, a large incision will be made to expose the wrist.

Once the surgery is complete, the patient will be woken up and taken into recovery. While in recovery, the patient will be monitored for any signs of problems. Pain management is provided, often in the form of intravenous medication, and the patient may be given intravenous fluids as well. Patients are also often asked to perform breathing exercises to confirm that their lung function has not been impaired by anesthesia. Depending on the nature of the surgery and the patient's case, the patient can be released after one to two days to go home.

Before release, patients are typically given aftercare instructions to learn how to care for the wound and the dressing. The patient may have a cast or external fixators which require special care. The patient will also be given some medications to take home, and warned about the signs of infections or other complications of wrist surgery so that the patient knows when it is appropriate to call the doctor to report problems.

Redness, swelling, extreme pain, and foul smelling discharges around the surgical site are all causes for concern after wrist surgery. Likewise, if a patient develops breathing problems, becomes feverish, or feels lightheaded, a doctor should be notified.


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Post 3

@Windchime - You are right to be concerned. My aunt had the same condition recently and she has only just been cleared to go back to work. She still has to wear a splint for the next few weeks too.

If your friend has a problem in her dominant hand she could try using the other to do more before the surgery. With some practice you can learn to get by. Perhaps this would reduce her sick time a little.

Post 2

If someone has been advised to have carpal tunnel surgery, isn't is wise that they do it as soon as possible? I'm really worried about my friend, who is putting it off because she can't take a lot of time away from work.

Post 1

After a long period of wrist pain I developed a cyst, which was promptly drained. When it came back for the third time I had to have surgery. Luckily it was a quick job, but I wish I could have had a local anesthetic.

It took me days to feel like I had gotten over that. So be prepared to have time at home to rest. Even a short surgery can leave you really groggy for some time.

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