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Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

1325 S Cliff Avenue
P.O. Box 5045
Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5045
605-322-8000

Carpal Tunnel Release

Carpal tunnel release is a procedure used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain and weakness in the hand triggered by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.

The median nerve and the tendons that flex your fingers go through a passage called the carpal tunnel in your wrist. This tunnel is small in width, so any swelling can tweak the nerve and cause pain. A thick ligament, just under your skin makes up the top of this tunnel.

Procedure Overview

Why the procedure is performed

Carpal Tunnel ReleasePatients with carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms typically try non-surgical treatments first. These include: occupational therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines, wrist splints, shots of corticosteroid medicine into the carpal tunnel, and workplace modifications to improve your seating and how you use equipment at work.

If none of these treatments help, some doctors will test the electrical activity of the median nerve with an EMG. If the test shows that the problem is carpal tunnel syndrome, carpal tunnel release surgery may be suggested. If the muscles in the hand and wrist are decreasing in size because the nerve is being pinches, surgery will typically be done immediately.

Surgeons occasionally do this procedure with a tiny camera that is attached to a monitor. The surgeon inserts the camera into your wrist through a small incision and looks at the monitor to see inside your wrist. This is called endoscopic surgery.

    Description of Procedure

    First, you will receive anesthesia. You will be awake, but you may also receive sedatives to help you relax. The surgeon will make a small cut in the palm of your hand near your wrist. The surgeon will then cut the carpal transverse ligament to east the pressure on the median nerve. The tissue around the nerve is often removed as well. Your surgeon will then close the skin and tissue underneath with stitches.

    Before Surgery

    Before the procedure

    • You may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.
    • Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
    • Ask your doctor what drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
    • If you smoke, try to quit. Ask your doctor or nurse for help. Smoking can delay the healing process.
    • Always let your doctor or nurse know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you may have before your surgery.
    • Do not drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours prior to the procedure.
    • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the doctor’s office.

    After Surgery

    After the procedure

    The surgery will be performed at an outpatient facility; therefore, you will not be required to stay in the hospital. Following the surgery, your wrist will most likely be in a splint or heavy bandage for close to a week. After the splint or bandage is removed, you will begin motion exercises or a physical therapy program.

    Carpal tunnel release reduces pain, nerve tingling, numbness, as well as reestablishes muscle strength. The length of your recovery will be contingent upon how long you had symptoms prior to the surgery and how badly damaged your median nerve is. If you had symptoms for a great deal of time prior to the surgery, you may not be completely free of symptoms after you recover.

    Risks

    • Allergic reactions to medicines
    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Injury to the median nerve or nerves that branch off of it
    • Injury to another nerve or blood vessel (artery or vein)
    • Scar sensitivity

    View Animation

    Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release

    The surgery information on this page is intended as an informational resource only. Each patient and surgical situation is different. Patients should discuss details of a surgery, recovery and pain management with their doctor(s).

    The information provided above should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

    The procedure text and imagery on this page are part of our illustrated health encyclopedia provided by A.D.A.M. You can view the full article in our illustrated  health encyclopedia.

    Any video animations on this page are provided by Krames Staywell/Swarm Interactive.