Carpal Tunnel Surgery: What to Expect
For some, carpal tunnel syndrome can be managed without surgery. But many people find that carpal tunnel release surgery is the most effective way to treat the condition and resolve their symptoms.
During carpal tunnel release surgery the transverse carpal ligament is cut to relieve pressure on the median nerve
The carpal tunnel is a narrow opening in the wrist through which the median nerve and several tendons pass through. When these tendons become inflamed, pressure on the median nerve can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensations to radiate into the hand.
If you’re considering carpal tunnel release surgery, here are some pointers to help you be prepared and understand what to expect:
- The surgery is fairly simple and successful, but there are some risks.
The goal of a carpal tunnel release is to create more space in the carpal tunnel by cutting the transverse carpal ligament, which runs across the top of the carpal tunnel. It’s easy to find and access, so the procedure is pretty straightforward. Studies suggest it has a clinical success rate of 75 to 90%. But like any surgery, there are some risks and potential complications. The most likely complication is an infection at the surgical sight, which can cause symptoms such as redness or oozing from the surgical site, swollen lymph nodes, or a fever. The most serious potential complication, which is rare, is permanent damage to the median nerve.
- Both the traditional open approach and the minimally-invasive endoscopic approach lead are safe and effective.
When endoscopic approaches to carpal tunnel release were new, there were some concerns that the approach was riskier and more prone to complications. But current studies reveal that both approaches are equally safe and reliable. In addition, the endoscopic approach may offer a quicker recovery time and return-to-work date. The biggest factor in helping you select an approach should be the experience level of your surgeon with your preferred approach.
- You may not need as much time off work as you fear.
Some people postpone or avoid carpal tunnel release surgery because they are worried the recovery process will keep them away from work for too long. But unless your job involves repetitive manual labor, you may be able to return to work in a week or 2. Those who perform manual labor may need to wait about 6 to 8 weeks before returning to work.
- You can make your recovery easier and less painful with a few simple measures.
In addition to resting and taking your pain medications, you can help your recovery go more smoothly by:
- Keeping your hand elevated.
- Icing the surgical site for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day.
- Preparing meals before surgery that will be easy to heat and serve.
- Wearing slip-on shoes and loose-fitting clothing that’s easy to get on and off.
- Using the voice activation controls on your phone and other electronics, when you can.
With a little preparation and research, you can be ready to reap the benefits of carpal tunnel release and find relief from carpal tunnel syndrome.
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