Needing Help for Carpal Tunnel?
According to physicians at Collins Orthopedic, the procedure for carpal tunnel syndrome—known as a carpal tunnel release or carpal tunnel decompression —creates more space for the nerve in the carpal tunnel by relieving pressure caused by a ligament. Carpal tunnel release is a small, outpatient procedure, but it is nevertheless still surgery. It is important to know what to expect before and after the procedure, and how to prepare for it.
The surgery is usually performed by an orthopedic surgeon. The procedure usually takes less than fifteen minutes to perform and can be done under local anesthesia. Patients go home soon after the procedure.
Step-by-Step Description of Carpal Tunnel Release
Carpal tunnel release, when performed in the hands of an experienced surgeon, is a relatively straightforward procedure. To make this process as easy as possible, Collins Orthopedic wants to provide you with a step-by-step description of what patients can expect when undergoing this surgery:
- During the procedure, the patient will generally lie on their back with the arm out to the side and palm-up.
- After sterilization, the surgeon administers an injection to numb the wrist, hand, and surgical area. The patient remains awake but may be sedated; general anesthesia is rarely used for carpal tunnel release.
- Surgery is most commonly performed in an open fashion through a single 1-inch incision in the palm.
- The surgeon locates the transverse carpal ligament, which runs across the top of the carpal tunnel, and cuts it, taking care not to damage the median nerve or the tendons below the ligament.
- The surgical instruments are removed, the area is washed, and the incision is closed with stitches.
- The surgeon covers the surgical site with a light bandage and will give instructions about when it may be removed.
Recovery can vary widely for those who have a carpal tunnel release surgery. Most patients get immediate relief of pain and numbness. Factors that can influence the speed of recovery include:
- Patient age and health
- Severity of carpal tunnel syndrome prior to surgery
- Ability of the patient to follow post-surgical care guidelines In general, these are the milestones that patients can expect with carpal tunnel release:
- About 1 week after surgery: The bandage and stitches are removed.
- Weeks 2-4: Patients gradually resume activity in the affected hand. Return to work is based on the type of work required—patients with sedentary or desk jobs that don’t require heavy lifting or labor can often return to work. Patients can expect gradually decreasing pain in the palm and soreness to touch. Massaging the scar with lotion helps decrease this discomfort and softens the area of the scar. Driving, self- care activities, typing, and light lifting and gripping are permitted around this time. A splint may be used occasionally during this time to take pressure off the wrist and reduce pain.
- 4 weeks: Patients should regain full mobility of the fingers by this time.
- 6 to 8 weeks: Patients should be back to nearly full daily life, but still will feel some soreness in the palm to deep pressure or touch.
1 year: By this point, most patients will have received all the benefits of their carpal tunnel release surgery. Patients who had severe or chronic median nerve damage, pinched nerves in the neck, or wasting of muscles prior to surgery may continue to have limits in hand function and strength even after surgery. Carpal tunnel release surgery is a low-risk procedure with high success in quickly relieving nighttime and neurological symptoms. Numbness, coordination, and strength in the hand improves over several weeks and months and may improve up to or beyond a year from the surgery. Let the doctors at Collins Orthopedic assist you with your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.