Carpal tunnel release is used to reduce pressure on the nerves that cause pain and weakness in the affected hand.
If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and conservative measures have not provided you with sufficient relief, your physician may recommend surgery. If this is the case, you will most likely undergo carpal tunnel release.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Release?
Carpal tunnel release, also known as carpal tunnel surgery or carpal tunnel decompression surgery, is a surgical procedure that is used to relieve pain, weakness, and other symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. In this condition, the narrow tunnel that contains the median nerve that runs through the wrist and leads to the hand is compressed. Tendons and the median nerve that run through this tunnel allow you to be able to curl your fingers, such as when making a fist or when you need to pick up or hold an object.
The wrist bone makes up a portion of this narrow tunnel. This tunnel is covered on the inside of the wrist by the carpal ligament that runs transversely just under the skin across the wrist. When you experience increased narrowing due to inflammation, such as from an injury, any swelling, no matter how minimal, can put pressure on the nerves.
When the nerves are compressed, or pinched, it can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, or even weakness in the hand. With a carpal tunnel release, the carpal ligament is cut to reduce pressure by creating a wider opening in the carpal tunnel for the median nerve and ligaments to run through without impingement.
Who Is a Good Candidate for This Surgery?
Anyone who is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome may receive a recommendation to have the carpal tunnel release surgery performed. However, a good majority of physicians prefer to try more conservative measures to reduce symptoms. If these more conservative measures do not provide sufficient relief, if a nerve test determines increasing damage or weakness, or if you experience symptoms for a certain length of time, your physician will most likely recommend surgical intervention by way of carpal tunnel release.
What Happens During Carpal Tunnel Release?
Decompression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel is typically done as an outpatient procedure. You may receive some type of medication so that you can relax. You will also receive local anesthesia to ensure that you do not feel pain during the procedure. In some instances, your physician may recommend general anesthesia, but this is less common. In a typical surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in your skin to expose the carpal ligament, where an incision will be made to release the pressure and expand the carpal tunnel. With endoscopic surgery, a smaller incision is made and a camera is inserted so that the surgeon can see what is going on during the procedure. In some cases, excess tissue may also be removed. The region will be sutured closed to allow the healing process to begin.