Carpal Tunnel Release

By relieving pressure on the median nerve, carpal tunnel release surgery can reduce the pain, numbness, and tingling sensations that are common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Carpal Tunnel Release Benefits:

  • Improved hand function, strength, and coordination

  • Pain relief

  • Relief from numbness and tingling

Situated at the base of the hand, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passage comprised of bones and ligaments. If the median nerve undergoes compression or constriction within the carpal tunnel, it can lead to an array of symptoms including pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the wrist and hand. These symptoms may intensify during the night and disrupt sleep, or be exacerbated while performing repetitive activities like typing, texting, or driving. Severe cases may cause the muscles at the base of the thumb to atrophy, causing a loss of grip strength. Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome encompass taking rest, wearing a wrist brace, undergoing physical therapy, taking medication, or in severe cases, opting for surgery.

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When you meet your hand surgeon for your carpal tunnel syndrome consultation, they will complete a physical exam to test sensation and weakness in the affected fingers and look for other signs of inflammation. Your surgeon will tap the wrist just above the median nerve, which may cause a tingling sensation in the thumb, index finger, long finger, and half of the ring finger – the digits innervated by the median nerve. This is called the Tinel’s sign and is a positive indication of carpal tunnel syndrome. Nerve conduction velocity and electromyography studies can also help detect prognosis severity. Your surgeon may also ultrasound your hand and wrist to assess median nerve compression.

Carpal Tunnel Release: What to Expect

Carpal tunnel release is a highly effective procedure that provides significant relief for many patients. The surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis at our ambulatory surgery center in Flagstaff. The entire surgery takes about 15 minutes. During the procedure, your surgeon will cut the transverse carpal ligament over the canal, alleviating pressure on the median nerve.

Carpal tunnel release can be performed endoscopically using a small camera to guide surgical tools under the skin. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that typically results in less post-operative pain and a faster recovery time compared to traditional open surgery. Open carpal tunnel releases are performed through a small incision in the proximal palm.

Medical Review: This procedural information has been medically reviewed by plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Brian A. Cripe, M.D.

Carpal Tunnel Release Recovery and Aftercare

Patients who have undergone carpal tunnel release surgery may resume their normal activities as long as the pain is tolerable. To encourage healing, patients are advised to open and close their hands ten times an hour while awake and walk several times a day. To alleviate pain and swelling, patients can elevate the operative hand, apply cold compresses, and take Tylenol and Advil. Most patients can return to work within 2-7 days following endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery. It is normal to experience some discomfort when putting pressure on the palm, such as when crawling, pushing out of a chair, or leaning on the hand with the wrist extended, for 4-6 weeks after surgery.

After two days, patients can remove surgical dressings and resume showering. There is no need for a splint or cast after carpal tunnel release surgery. However, patients should avoid soaking in bathtubs until cleared by their doctor, and swimming should be avoided for six weeks to minimize the risk of infection. During the first few days after surgery, some drainage from the incision sites is normal. To prevent clothing from getting soiled, patients may find placing clean gauze or an absorbent dressing over the incisions helpful.

For most patients, carpal tunnel release surgery provides long-term relief from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms may return over time, but repeat surgery is typically successful in relieving symptoms again.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome FAQs

Nerve impingement causes carpal tunnel syndrome. Many risk factors can contribute to nerve impingement, including: 

  • Genetic factors
  • Fractures and sprains
  • Anomalous muscle
  • Tendon swelling
  • Repetitive hand motions
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Gout
  • Pregnancy
  • Masses

In many cases, carpal tunnel syndrome will resolve on its own with a combination of: 

  • Splinting: Mobilizing the hand helps prevent the hand from moving in ways that aggravate and compress the nerves inside the carpal tunnel. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter medications, such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, can help reduce inflammation.
  • Steroid injections: Your doctor may recommend injecting a corticosteroid into the carpal tunnel, which usually provides temporary relief. Only 25% of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome get long-term relief after a steroid injection. 
  • Physical therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises may help improve carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Ergonomic changes: Patients who work at desk jobs may develop carpal tunnel due to repetitive motions associated with typing. Making sure that your workspace is designed to accommodate proper wrist and hand positions can help alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome. 

If none of these treatments provide relief, carpal tunnel release surgery is usually recommended.

If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and nonsurgical interventions aren’t alleviating your symptoms, then carpal tunnel release may be deemed medically necessary. In this case, your insurance provider is more likely to cover the procedure. It’s important to check with your insurance to see if you qualify for coverage before booking your procedure.

You May Also Be Interested In:

  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

  • Golfer’s Elbow

  • Hand Arthritis

  • Hand Fractures

  • Hand Nerve Repair

Book Your Hand Treatment Consultation

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