What Is Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the median nerve, which controls movement and sensation in the hand becomes compressed. As a result, pain, tingling weakness and numbness can occur in the hand and fingers. Carpal tunnel release is aimed at alleviating the pressure on the nerve and providing relief from symptoms.
Common Reasons for Carpal Tunnel Release
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the flexor tendons that pass through the tunnel swell, putting pressure on the median nerve. People who use their hands for repetitive tasks with large amounts of motion, especially those who use handheld vibrating tools like power drills, are particularly prone to developing the condition. Carpal tunnel release surgery will take pressure off the median nerve.
Candidates for Carpal Tunnel Release
Carpal tunnel release is a possible treatment for people with carpal tunnel syndrome who have already tried more conservative treatments, such as:
Bracing or splinting the wrist
The carpal tunnel is a narrow space through which finger tendons and the median nerve pass. The space is formed by the carpal bones and by the transverse carpal ligament on the palm side of the wrist.
In carpal tunnel release, the transverse carpal ligament is cut and divided. When it heals, it will heal in a way that creates more room in the carpal tunnel for the nerve and the flexor tendons, thus alleviating the pressure on the nerve.
Carpal tunnel release surgery can be performed in two ways: as an open procedure or as an endoscopic procedure. In the open procedure, an incision is made in the palm so the surgeon can see and divide the ligament. With the endoscopic procedure, the surgeon uses small tools and a camera called an endoscope attached to a video monitor to see the surgical site.
Carpal tunnel release is usually an outpatient surgery, meaning the patient may leave the surgery center within 24 hours. After the surgery, it is advised to elevate the arm that was operated upon and move the fingers frequently in order to reduce stiffness and swelling.
Grip and pinch strength should return in approximately two months, but complete nerve healing and return of sensation may take up to a year. In long-standing cases where there is nerve damage, recovering normal sensation or strength is not likely.
Physical therapy is sometimes—if rarely—necessary, but the surgeon may recommend a hand therapist. Recovery will be slower for people who have had carpal tunnel for a long time and have experienced muscle atrophy or severe loss of feeling around the thumb.
If you are seeking treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome, schedule an appointment with one of our hand and wrist specialists today.