Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery – Procedure, Treatment, and Recovery

carpal tunnel release surgery

Carpal tunnel release is a surgical treatment to heal carpal tunnel syndrome which is a painful condition pertaining to the wrists. Once the doctors thought that the syndrome was caused by repetitive motion of the hand or wrist, often due to some nature of a work. But now they know that the main reason behind the syndrome is the smaller carpal tunnel of some people’s hands. But it can also be caused by injuries like a fracture or a sprain. In some cases, the use of a vibrating tool can also cause the syndrome. In other cases, diabetes, pregnancy, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are the reasons.

Carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway for the median nerve and tendons that cause your finger to move. The carpal tunnel is made of the carpal ligament tunnel across the inside and top of the wrist and the wrist bones on the bottom of the carpal ligament.  Because of the injury, the tissues within the tunnel swell and press the median nerve, causing numbness and tingling in the wrist or hand. The hand can even become frictionless if left untreated.

Why you need carpal tunnel surgery?

Generally, doctors look for nonsurgical ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Such treatments include the use of pain medications, changes to the equipment you frequently use at work, physical therapy, wrist splints, or shots of steroids in the injured wrist.

But if the nonsurgical treatment does not work, you may be required to undergo carpal tunnel release surgery. If the muscles of wrist or hand are weak or getting smaller, the surgery option will be considered.


Before getting ready for the carpal tunnel surgery, let your surgeon know about any medication you are currently taking. Tell about vitamins, supplements, herbs, and any over-the-counter drugs you are taking. The surgeon may ask you to stop taking the drugs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen that make your blood thin. You will also be asked to quit smoking before the surgery. You may also be needed to get the blood test and an electrocardiogram [ECG] before the surgery.

First, the doctor will perform an electromyography test on the patient’s median nerve. This is done to find out if the patient has carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel release is an outpatient procedure. It means that the patient can go home after the surgery the same day. During the surgery, the surgeon cuts through the ligament. This is the ligament that is pressing down on the carpal tunnel. The purpose of this surgery is to make the medium nerve free from the pressure. The tendon passing through the tunnel has more room to function normally without any pressure.

The procedure:

 Watch carpal tunnel surgery video

The surgeon can choose to use the traditional carpal tunnel release surgery. This procedure is also known as the open release. The surgeon will cut open the patient’s wrist to perform the surgery. But the surgeon may also choose the second method, which is endoscopic carpal tunnel release. In this method, the surgeon puts a tiny incision and a flexible, thin tube that has a camera is inserted through the patient’s wrist. With the guidance of the camera, the surgeon can use the thin tools to work on the wrist making another small cut.

You will be put under local anesthesia to numb the hand and wrist. Then, the surgeon will cut an incision of about 2 inches on the wrist.  Then, with the use of surgical instruments, the surgeon reaches to the carpal ligament and cuts it. The carpal tunnel is enlarged during the process.

There is another method of carpal tunnel release surgery. This method is known as endoscopic carpal tunnel release. The surgeon makes a half-inch incision on the wrist and another half-inch incision on the palm. The surgeon then pushes a tube with a camera into one incision. The camera guides for inserting the instruments. Then, the surgeon reaches to the other incision cutting through the carpal ligament.

After the surgery process is over, the incisions will be stitched up. The wrist and hand will be put on a splint keep the wrist static at one place. The patient is allowed to go home on the same day after some monitoring.


The splint or bandage will be removed after 1 or 2 weeks by the doctors. To control the pain experienced after the surgery, the doctor will give you some medicines that you can take orally. When sleeping at night, you will be advised to raise the affected hand a little so that swelling can be prevented.

After the splint is removed, you may be advised to undergo a physical therapy program to learn motion exercises. This will help you improve your movements of wrist and hand. The exercise will also help in the speedy recovery of the area. You will recover completely in a few days or it may take even a few months depending on your condition. However, in case of any fever, swelling, bleeding, and increased pain, you must let your surgeon know about it.

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