Although arthroscopy of upper extremity joints was initially a diagnostic tool, it is increasingly used for therapeutic interventions. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the gold standard for assessing treatment efficacy. We aimed to review the literature for intervention RCTs involving wrist and shoulder arthroscopy.
We performed a systematic review for RCTs in which at least one arm was an intervention performed through wrist arthroscopy or shoulder arthroscopy. PubMed and Cochrane Library databases were searched up to December 2012. Two researchers reviewed each article and recorded the condition treated, randomization method, number of randomized participants, time of randomization, outcomes measures, blinding, and description of dropouts and withdrawals. We used the modified Jadad scale that considers the randomization method, blinding, and dropouts/withdrawals; score 0 (lowest quality) to 5 (highest quality). The scores for the wrist and shoulder RCTs were compared with the Mann–Whitney test.
The first references to both wrist and shoulder arthroscopy appeared in the late 1970s. The search found 4 wrist arthroscopy intervention RCTs (Kienböck’s disease, dorsal wrist ganglia, volar wrist ganglia, and distal radius fracture; first 3 compared arthroscopic with open surgery). The median number of participants was 45. The search found 50 shoulder arthroscopy intervention RCTs (rotator cuff tears 22, instability 14, impingement 9, and other conditions 5). Of these, 31 compared different arthroscopic treatments, 12 compared arthroscopic with open treatment, and 7 compared arthroscopic with nonoperative treatment. The median number of participants was 60. The median modified Jadad score for the wrist RCTs was 0.5 (range 0–1) and for the shoulder RCTs 3.0 (range 0–5) (p = 0.012).
Despite the increasing use of wrist arthroscopy in the treatment of various wrist disorders the efficacy of arthroscopically performed wrist interventions has been studied in only 4 randomized studies compared to 50 randomized studies of significantly higher quality assessing interventions performed through shoulder arthroscopy.