Carpal tunnel release is a surgery that cuts open the transverse carpal ligament covering the carpel tunnel.
The median nerve runs from the forearm into the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when this nerve is squeezed at the wrist as it runs through the carpel tunnel. This results in pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in your hand and wrist.
Carpal tunnel release relieves pressure on the median nerve. Your doctor may recommend this surgery if:
- Other therapies have failed, including icing, splints or braces, anti-inflammatory medicines, steroid injections, physical therapy or ultrasound
- There is shrinkage and weakness of the muscles controlling the thumb
- The median nerve is not working properly
What Happens During Surgery
Your doctor may perform a classic open incision or an endoscopic technique.
Open Carpal Tunnel Release
Your doctor makes a short incision in your lower palm and wrist area to open the carpal ligament and free the median nerve. Your doctor closes the incision with stitches and applies a bandage.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release
Your doctor makes two tiny cuts in the palm side of your wrist and passes a small tool with a camera through an incision. This camera allows your doctor to see inside the carpal tunnel. Your doctor passes other surgical tools through the other incision, which are used to release the carpal ligament.
Both procedures take between 15-60 minutes. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication after the procedure.
You may have to wear a brace or splint for several weeks after surgery. Complete recovery may take four weeks or longer. The pain and numbness or tingling in your hand and fingers usually improves rather quickly. Your grasp strength will slowly begin to improve.
Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Nerve damage
- Stiffness of the fingers
- Continued numbness, tingling, weakness or pain
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Smoking or alcohol abuse
- Taking steroid medicine for other conditions