All About Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is done to release the nerve that is being pressed on the wrist area, relieving classic symptoms such as tingling or pricking sensation in the hand and fingers.

This type of surgery is generally recommended in cases where the drugs and physiotherapy sessions have shown little or no improvement and in cases where there is a great nerve compression.

Surgery is performed by an orthopedist, is relatively simple and, in most cases, provides a complete and permanent cure. However, as with any type of surgery, there is always a small risk of complications such as nerve damage or infection, for example. 

How is the surgery done

Carpal tunnel surgery consists of making a small opening between the palm of the hand and the wrist to cut the ligament that presses the nerve, relieving pressure on it. Surgery can be done with two different techniques:

  • Traditional technique: the surgeon makes a large cut in the palm of the hand over the carpal tunnel and cuts the ligament to release the nerve;
  • Laparoscopy technique: the surgeon uses a device with a small camera attached to see the inside of the carpal tunnel and cuts the ligament through one or two small cuts on the hand or wrist.

Anesthesia for carpal tunnel surgery can be done locally only on the hand, close to the shoulder or the surgeon can choose general anesthesia. However, whatever the anesthesia, the person does not feel pain during the surgery.

How is recovery

The recovery time varies according to the type of technique used, but generally the recovery time for traditional surgery is slightly longer than the recovery time for laparoscopic surgery. In general, people who work in offices and have to keep typing need to be away from work for 10 days. 

However, regardless of the technique used, in the postoperative period of carpal tunnel surgery it is important to take some precautions such as:

  • Stay at rest and take the medications indicated by the doctor , such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen to relieve pain and discomfort;
  • Use a splint to immobilize the wrist to prevent damage caused by joint movement for 8 to 10 days;
  • Keep the operated hand raised for 48 hours to help reduce any swelling and stiffness in the fingers;
  • After removing the splint, an ice pack can be placed on the spot to relieve pain and reduce swelling. 

It is normal that in the first days after the surgery you may feel pain or weakness that can take a few weeks or even months to pass, however, the person can, with the guidance of the doctor, continue using the hand to do light activities that do not cause pain or discomfort.

After the surgery it is usually necessary to do a few more physiotherapy sessions for the carpal tunnel and exercises to prevent the scars from the surgery from adhering and prevent the free movement of the affected nerve. See some examples of exercises to do at home .

Possible risks

Carpal tunnel surgery, like all surgeries, presents some risks such as infection, hemorrhage, nerve damage and persistent pain in the wrist or arm. 

In addition, in some cases it is possible that, after surgery, symptoms such as tingling and feeling of needles in the hand may not disappear completely, and may return.

So, it is very important to talk to the doctor about the real risks of surgery, before doing the procedure.

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