Complications of Wrist Arthroscopy: A Multicenter Study Based on 10,107 Arthroscopies

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Wrist arthroscopy is now a routine procedure, regarded as safe. Complications are reported in the literature as being rare and mostly minor.


The two goals of this study were to evaluate the incidence and nature of complications based on a very large multicenter retrospective study, and to investigate about a potential learning curve.


The authors sent a detailed questionnaire to all members of the European Wrist Arthroscopy Society (EWAS), inquiring about the number and types of complications encountered during their practice of wrist arthroscopy, and about their experience with the technique.


A total of 36 series comprising 10,107 wrist arthroscopies were included in the study. There were 605 complications (5.98% of the cases), of which 5.07% were listed as serious and 0.91% as minor. The most frequent ones were failure to achieve the procedure (1.16%), and nerve lesions (1.17%). Cartilage lesions and complex regional pain syndrome each occurred in 0.50% cases. Other complications (wrist stiffness, loose bodies, hematomas, tendon lacerations) were less frequent. Breaking down of the data according to each surgeon's experience of the technique showed a significant relationship with the rate of complications, the threshold for a lower complication rate being approximately 25 arthroscopies a year and/or greater than 5 years of experience.


Although the global incidence of complications was in keeping with the literature, the incidence of serious complications was much higher than previously reported. There is a significant learning curve with the technique of wrist arthroscopy, both in terms of volume and experience.

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