Carpal tunnel release is an outpatient procedure performed to relieve pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. It is performed in order to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, which include tingling and numbness in the fingers. Carpal tunnel release helps to restore muscle strength and dexterity to the hand, and is typically performed on patients who have had symptoms that persist for months and have not responded to more conservative treatment methods.
The Carpal Tunnel Release Procedure
Carpal tunnel release can be performed either as an open-surgery procedure or endoscopically. In either case, the transverse carpal ligament is cut to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Each type of surgery has advantages and disadvantages. Open carpal-tunnel-release surgery involves a 2-inch incision in the middle of the palm, providing the surgeon with a direct view of the treatment area. The advantage to this approach is that it carries less risk of accidentally damaging nerve tissue than does an endoscopic procedure.
Endoscopic carpal-tunnel-release surgery, on the other hand, is less invasive than open surgery. It involves only two tiny incisions, so patients have less postoperative pain, less scarring, and a speedier recovery than with the open procedure.
Recovery From Carpal Tunnel Release
With both types of surgery, patients can return home the same day, though patients who have undergone arthroscopic surgery may be able to resume normal activities more quickly. With either surgical approach, patients whose surgery has been on the dominant hand take longer to fully recover.
Prescription pain medication is usually necessary after either procedure, though it may be required for a longer period after the traditional operation. Some patients may still have carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms after their procedures, but most report that symptoms are significantly reduced. Physical therapy is usually helpful in helping patients achieve a more rapid and complete recovery.