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The Basics of Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Medically reviewed by Jason G. Patton, MD | June 7, 2022

You’re probably experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome if you feel tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in one or both of your hands. Don’t panic. It’s a common condition. Treatments include wrist splinting, medication, and occupational therapy for mild cases. However, more severe cases require carpal tunnel surgery. Here’s what you need to know about the procedure.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from a squeezed or irritated median nerve at the level of the wrist/hand. Several factors can contribute to the condition, including wrist fractures, obesity, inflammatory diseases, medications, and body fluid changes. Workplace conditions can also cause the issue. For example, job tasks that require repetitive wrist flexing can irritate the nerve.

Why would I need carpal tunnel surgery? 

Minor carpal tunnel syndrome frequently responds to conservative treatments. However, if those methods don’t work, you may be at risk for permanent nerve damage. So, your physician may recommend carpal tunnel surgery.

What does carpal tunnel surgery involve?

During surgery, your physician will cut a ligament in your hand and create more space inside your carpal tunnel. This relieves pressure on your median nerve.

A doctor can perform this procedure in two ways: endoscopic or open surgery.

During endoscopic surgery, a physician will peer inside your wrist with a tiny camera and snip the ligaments using one or two small incisions. This option often involves less pain and a quicker recovery time, but it also requires specialized equipment and training. So, not every practice offers it. However, Jason G. Patton, MD,is highly skilled in endoscopic techniques and can perform this variation of carpal tunnel surgery at the Orthopaedic Institute Surgery Center.

During open surgery, your doctor will make an incision in the palm of your hand and cut the ligaments without using special tools. This option is easier to perform, and therefore, you can have it done at a wider variety of healthcare facilities.

Are there risks?

Some patients experience bruising, numbness, and pain during recovery, but those symptoms usually disappear after a few weeks. Carpal tunnel surgery may also leave a scar. And there is a slight chance that the incision site could get infected, which would require medical care.

If you feel persistent tingling or weakness, you may have suffered additional nerve damage from your carpal tunnel syndrome or a surgery complication. You’ll have to talk to your doctor about further treatment.

What should I expect during the recovery period?

Recovery time after carpal tunnel surgery varies from several days to a few months, depending on the severity of your condition. You’ll also need to keep the incision clean and bandaged or splinted for at least two weeks after the procedure and refrain from heavy lifting. But you should be able to return to your normal routine soon.

If you have any questions about carpal tunnel surgery, our experts are ready to answer. Give us a call at (270) 442-9461.