What is a Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery?

Carpal tunnel release surgery is a procedure that can treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there’s inflammation in your carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is the passageway in your wrist that the median nerve and tendons for your fingers pass through. It’s formed by your wrist bones on the bottom and the transverse carpal ligament on the top. If it gets too tight or inflammed, then your hand starts to feel numb or painful. If it goes on untreated, then it can lead to serious issues such as loss of use.

Why Would You Need This Surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon will suggest this surgery only as a last resort. Before considering this, he or she will provide you with nonsurgical treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy or even steroid shots. If the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome have lasted longer than six months without relief, or if the nonsurgical methods fail, then your surgeon will advise surgery. You may also be advised to undergo the procedure if your hand or wrist muscles are getting weaker from the pressure on your median nerve.

What Happens During Surgery?

Before surgery, you’ll be advised not to eat or drink anything for 6-12 hours. You may also need to get a blood test or an electrocardiogram beforehand. When you arrive for your surgery, you’ll need to remove your clothes and put a hospital gown on.

Your surgeon will use local anesthesia on your wrist and hand for the procedure. There are two ways that this surgery can be performed. The first way is a traditional open release surgery. This requires the surgeon to open a two-inch incision into your wrist. Some surgeons will perform an endoscopic release, which involves two half-inch incisions on the wrist and palm. Then, the surgeon will insert a narrow tube with a camera on one end into one incision and perform the surgery through the other.

In either event, the surgeon will cut the carpal ligament, which enlarges the carpal tunnel. You’ll receive stitches where the incisions were, and your hand will also be bandaged or placed in a splint to prevent movement. This is usually an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day that it’s done.

What Happens Afterwards?

You’ll likely remain bandaged for a period of up to two weeks. Your surgeon may prescribe pain medication for your hand and wrist during this time. At the end of this period, your bandages or splint will be removed. After that, you’ll enter a therapy program to improve the movement of your hand and wrist. This can last up to several weeks.


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POSMC is a full-service medical facility specializing in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic injuries. The practice is led by a group of 12 board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. Contact us today!