Carpal tunnel release is surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain and weakness in the hand that is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
The median nerve and the tendons that flex (or curl) your fingers go through a passage called the carpal tunnel in your wrist. This tunnel is narrow, so any swelling can pinch the nerve and cause pain. A thick ligament (tissue) just under your skin (the carpal ligament) makes up the top of this tunnel.
First, you will receive numbing medicine (anesthesia) so that you will not feel pain during surgery. You may be awake but you will also receive medicines to make you relax.
The surgeon will cut through the carpal ligament to make more space for the nerve and tendons:
- A small surgical cut is made in the palm of your hand near your wrist.
- The transverse carpal ligament to cut. This eases the pressure on the median nerve. Sometimes, tissue around the nerve is removed as well.
- The skin and tissue underneath are closed with sutures (stitches).
Sometimes surgeons do this procedure using a tiny camera that is attached to a monitor. The surgeon inserts the camera into your wrist through a very small surgical cut and views the monitor to see inside your wrist. This is called endoscopic surgery. The instrument used is called an endoscope.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Patients with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually try non-surgical treatments first. These are:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Occupational therapy
- Workplace changes to improve your seating and how you use equipment
- Wrist splints
- Shots of corticosteroid medicine into the carpal tunnel
If none of these treatments help, some surgeons 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 recommended.
If the muscles in the hand and wrist are getting smaller because the nerve is being pinched, surgery will usually be done right away.