Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve passing through your wrist gets compressed by nearby connective tissue. This condition can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand.
Fortunately, symptoms are usually manageable with conservative treatment. In cases where such treatments fail to provide adequate relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the pressure on the median nerve. Here are some of the questions you should ask your doctor as you consider carpal tunnel release surgery.
Is Surgery Right for Me?
Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome first go through non-surgical treatments. In many cases, wearing a wrist splint and making ergonomic changes to your workspace can help alleviate symptoms. This should prevent the carpal tunnel, which is the fibrous connective tissue surrounding the median nerve, from causing further nerve irritation. Taking anti-inflammatory medications and doing daily exercises are also effective ways to manage this condition.
Severe cases may not respond as well to conservative treatments, particularly if there is a heightened risk of nerve damage. In these cases, surgery can give you lasting relief from pain and inflammation. Doctors will recommend surgery if a patient has had symptoms for more than 6 months that other treatments couldn’t resolve.
Surgery is also considered if there is significant nerve dysfunction. Heavy compression of the median nerve can compromise your ability to use your hand muscles. Due to the lack of stimulation, your hand may atrophy and become weak.
An electromyography test can also be performed to test how well the median nerve conducts electrical impulses to the hand muscles. Significant issues in conductivity may warrant surgery.
What Surgical Options Do I Have?
Carpal tunnel release works by cutting the ligaments that comprise the carpal tunnel structure. This procedure increases the available space inside the carpal tunnel and alleviates pressure on the median nerve.
Surgery can be performed either through open or endoscopic techniques. In open surgery, the surgeon makes a 2-inch incision on your wrist to access the carpal ligament. Using conventional surgical tools, they then cut constricting ligaments until there is more space around the median nerve.
With endoscopic surgery, your surgeon makes half-inch incisions to accommodate the thinner instruments. They then use an endoscopic tube equipped with a small camera to view the carpal tunnel, and other instruments to cut the ligaments.
Carpal tunnel surgery usually only requires local anesthesia. After the surgery, you will receive stitches to seal the incisions.
Open surgery tends to be cheaper and easier to perform, so more healthcare centers offer it. However, recovery can take longer due to the larger surgical incisions. Meanwhile, endoscopic surgery has a quicker recovery time due to the smaller incisions. This procedure requires specialized equipment and surgeon training, so it is important to choose a well-established healthcare center if you choose this option. Overall, endoscopic surgery is the preferred method, as it results in better patient satisfaction.
What Are Some of the Risks I Might Face Due to Surgery?
Some patients experience temporary bruising and numbness due to transient inflammation of the cut tissues. You may also encounter pain while the incisions heal. However, these signs disappear after a few weeks. In some people, the incisions leave a prominent scar, particularly with traditional surgery.
Rarely do people encounter hand swelling or neurological symptoms such as persistent tingling or weakness. These point towards median nerve damage, either as a consequence of advanced carpal tunnel syndrome or as a complication of surgery. In these cases, you will need additional treatment to manage these symptoms.
Finally, the surgical incision may get infected. If you feel significant inflammation, increased pain, or a fever, reach out to your doctor immediately to get treatment.
How Do I Prepare for Carpal Tunnel Release?
Before surgery, alert your doctor about any medicine you’re taking, as well as any supplements. Certain substances may interfere with your recovery or have adverse reactions to the anesthesia you’ll receive.
If you smoke, you will be advised to quit before surgery since smoking can delay healing.
You will have to refrain from eating or drinking anything for up to 12 hours before the procedure. Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend other preparations.
What Happens After Surgery?
You will have to keep your wrist in a splint or bandage for the first two weeks to reduce unnecessary movement, but you will receive instructions to move your fingers to prevent stiffness.
Once the incision has healed significantly, you’ll start a physical therapy program to regain your wrist strength and mobility.
Total recovery time can take anywhere from several days to a few months. Most people will be able to resume regular activities soon after.
Reliable Hand Surgeon in Northeast Ohio
Carpal tunnel surgery can provide permanent relief from pain and discomfort. By understanding its applications and aligning your expectations, you can better weigh the costs and benefits to decide on the best treatment for your condition.
For patients in Northeast Ohio, Orthopaedic Associates provides high-quality healthcare through our board-certified orthopedic surgeons. We invest in the latest medical techniques to give you optimal results and maximum convenience. Learn more by calling us at (440) 892-1440 and accessing our patient information page.