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Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

Palm of hand with incision sites for carpal tunnel surgery.

Surgery may be done if your carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms become severe. Or, you may have surgery if no other treatment brings relief. There are 2 types of CTS procedures. You will be told about the one you will have. You’ll also be instructed how to prepare for it.

Hand with palm up, showing carpal tunnel anatomy and cut ligament.

The goals of surgery

Two types of surgery—open and endoscopic—are used to treat CTS.

  • With open surgery, your surgeon makes one incision in your palm. Standard surgical tools are used.

  • With endoscopic surgery, one or two small incisions may be made in your hand. A scope (with a very small camera attached) and tools are inserted under the carpal ligament. The surgeon then operates while watching images on a video screen. No matter which one you have, the goal remains the same: Your surgeon will relieve pressure on the median nerve. To do this, the transverse carpal ligament is cut (released).

After surgery

If you’ve had carpal tunnel surgery, you will spend a few hours resting before you go home. The nerve sensation and circulation in your hand will be checked at this time. For the safest healing, keep the following in mind.

  • Keep your hand raised above heart level. This will help reduce swelling.

  • Limit hand and wrist use as instructed. A wrist brace may be required.

  • Take any pain medication as directed.

  • Do hand exercises as directed by your surgeon or therapist.

When to call the surgeon

Call your surgeon if you notice any of the following:

  • White or pale-blue hand or nails (If you pinch your skin or nail and the color doesn’t return)

  • Pain that is not relieved by prescribed medicine

  • Loss of sensation or excess swelling in hand or fingers

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)

 

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