Carpal tunnel surgery, a procedure also known as carpal tunnel release surgery is a type of operation in which the transverse carpal ligament
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Carpal tunnel surgery, a procedure also known as carpal tunnel release surgery is a type of operation in which the transverse carpal ligament is divided. The procedure is used to treat patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, but only in cases where symptoms are constantly affecting the patient’s life and day to day activities.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of condition in which the wrist’s median nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel area. This condition can lead to tingling sensation, numbness, pain, muscle weakness and atrophy. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by the following risk factors:
● Injury or trauma to the hand
● A narrow carpal wrist tunnel
Mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with corticosteroid injections or the use of night splints, but these cannot cure the condition, only limit the symptoms. Carpal tunnel release surgery is the only procedure known to bring relief to patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, even though it does not fully cure the condition.
There are two main types of carpal tunnel release surgery:
● Open carpal tunnel surgery
● Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery
Patients opting for the endoscopic technique can usually return to work in a shorter time period and also benefit from less pain during the carpal tunnel surgery recovery period. Medical research found both procedures to be as effective for treating symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, but endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery may be more expensive and require more time in the operating room.
Every year, more than 350.000 patients from the USA alone opt for this type of surgery.
Carpal tunnel release surgery is recommended for patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel release surgery is not recommended for pregnant patients, as the condition may resolve itself after delivery. The procedure is not recommended for patients suffering from other life threatening conditions or patients incompatible with general anaesthesia. Morbid obesity, cardiovascular disease and lung disease can make patents incompatible with general anaesthesia.
Patients need to have a thorough understanding of the procedure and what it can achieve. For patients suffering from severe carpal tunnel syndrome, symptoms may still persist to some degree after carpal tunnel surgery. Mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated through other, less invasive means.
Patients will have several tests done, including a nerve conduction study and an electromyography before going in for surgery.
General or local anaesthesia is first administered to the patient. The anaesthesia choice depends on the patient and the complexity of the procedure.
Once the anaesthesia kicks in, an incision is created at the base of the patient’s palm. The doctor will then carefully sever the transverse carpal ligament. Once that’s done, the incision is closed with stitches. Scar tissue will form where the transverse carpal ligament has been cut, effectively making it longer.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is performed in the same way, the only difference being an endoscope is used by the surgeon to work inside the patient’s wrist. This procedure requires one or more smaller incisions and generally patients benefit from a shorter recovery period.
Local or General anesthetic
Overnight stay is not required
Carpal tunnel surgery recovery lasts between 6 and 12 weeks if the patient’s dominant hand is treated. If the patient’s non dominant hand is treated, the average recovery period is around 14 days. During this time patients may experience some pain, inflammation and lack of strength in their hand.
Carpal tunnel surgery complications are rare, but they can still occur in some cases:
● Tenderness around incision site
● Nerve damage
● Return of symptoms after 3 months
● Limited hand function
Carpal tunnel surgery side effects can include:
● Temporary lack of strength in the operated hand
Carpal tunnel surgery success rates indicate that over 90% of patients report alleviation of symptoms following carpal tunnel surgery.
Most patients report fewer or no symptoms after carpal tunnel surgery but in certain cases pain and numbness may still return. Some patients may experience limited hand functionality for 3 months after the procedure.