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.