Carpal Tunnel Release
(Carpal Tunnel Surgery, Carpal Tunnel Decompression)
Carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure to treat and possibly heal carpal tunnel syndrome, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. During the procedure, your surgeon will cut the ligament around the carpal tunnel in your wrist, taking the pressure off the nerve and relieving your symptoms.
At A Glance: Carpal Tunnel Release
Also Known As
Carpal Tunnel Decompression
Typical Recovery Time
Typical Price Range
Tell Me About The Surgery
Procedure Research and Consultation
How is carpal tunnel release surgery done?
There are two types of carpal tunnel release surgery, one performed with an endoscope (a tiny camera) and one performed without. In the endoscopic version, your surgeon will make one or two small incisions in your wrist and insert the endoscope, so an image of the inside of your wrist can be displayed on a monitor for your surgeon to see. Then, your surgeon will cut the carpal ligament, taking the pressure off your nerve, from underneath. When the surgery is done without an endoscope, your surgeon cuts a 2-inch incision on your wrist and then cuts the carpal ligament.
What issue does carpal tunnel release surgery solve?
Carpal tunnel release surgery treats and possibly heals carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes pain and loss of function.
What is minimally invasive surgery?
A procedure that involves a smaller incision and a less-invasive technique, shortening recovery time.
Do I have options for anesthesia for a carpal tunnel release?
Carpal tunnel release surgery can be done with local or general anesthesia.
How do I know a carpal tunnel release surgery is right for me?
You may be a good candidate for carpal tunnel release surgery if nonsurgical remedies, such as wrist splints and medication, haven’t relieved your pain. Your doctor might also recommend surgery if your symptoms have lasted longer than six months. Another indication that surgery might be the right solution is that the muscles in your hand and wrist are weakening.
How safe is carpal tunnel release surgery?
Carpal tunnel release surgery is considered a safe, effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. You should also know that Hancock Regional Hospital has been rated one of the safest hospitals in America by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care watchdog organization; and was named the safest hospital in Indiana on the Lown Institute Hospital Index.
What are the possible side effects and complications of carpal tunnel release surgery?
While unusual, some of the possible complications of carpal tunnel surgery include bleeding, infection, injury to the nerves in the wrist or the blood vessels around it, persistent numbness and tingling, pain in the area of the incision (this is less common with endoscopic surgery), a sensitive scar, and recurrent carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the possible side effects of general anesthesia?
Some of the possible side effects include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, bruising (from the IV), itching, shivering and feeling cold, difficulty urinating, and sleepiness. In older patients, memory loss and temporary confusion are possible.
What are the alternatives to carpal tunnel release surgery?
Alternatives to carpal tunnel surgery include hand and wrist stretches, increased physical activity, weight loss, quitting smoking, night splints, injections, and medications.
What are the risks of not having carpal tunnel release surgery?
If it’s left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to weakness, pain, numbness, lack of coordination, and permanent nerve damage.
What kind of outcome is typical for carpal tunnel release surgery?
Carpal tunnel release surgery has a high success rate in relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Consultation and Choosing A Surgeon or Surgical Team
Do I need a referral to see a surgeon for carpal tunnel release surgery?
You don’t need a referral to see a surgeon about carpal tunnel release surgery.
What should I bring to my first appointment with a surgeon?
Insurance information Medical records, including your medical history, from your primary care physician A complete list of all medications you take on a regular basis, including any over-the-counter medication Your most recent diagnostic labs and imaging (Not sure where to go? Check out Gateway Hancock Health, where you’ll be able to get in and out quickly and pay, on average, 70% less than you’ll pay at a hospital.)
Do I have to get a second or third opinion for a carpal tunnel release?
You can always get a second or third opinion, but it isn’t required.
How should I decide which surgeon’s advice to follow?
You should work with the surgeon with whom you feel comfortable, whether that’s one of our surgeons or not.
Will the surgical team know my health history?
Your health history will be compiled and available to the team before, during, and after surgery. If you’re a Hancock Health patient, we will be able to access your records within our system. If you aren’t, we will work with your doctors to get the necessary information.
Why might I have to wait to schedule carpal tunnel release surgery?
In some cases, it takes time for a patient’s body to be ready for carpal tunnel surgery. For example, if you have another medical issue including another surgical procedure or an illness, we might wait to perform your carpal tunnel surgery. Your health and safety are our top priority, so we schedule surgeries when they’re best for our patients.
What happens if my symptoms get worse while I wait for my carpal tunnel surgery?
Your surgical team will evaluate the situation and help you make a choice that’s right for you and your health. Temporary treatments might be used if your surgery is rescheduled.
Insurance & Cost
How much does carpal tunnel surgery cost?
Consult the price transparency tool at HancockRegionalHospital.org for an idea of how much carpal tunnel surgery might cost.
Will insurance cover my carpal tunnel surgery?
In most cases, insurance will cover most of the costs associated with carpal tunnel surgery. To obtain an estimate of your possible out-of-pocket expenses, use our Price Estimator Tool.
Will Medicare cover my carpal tunnel surgery?
Medicare parts A and B will cover the cost of your carpal tunnel release surgery, but it’s important for your doctor to indicate that the procedure is medically necessary.
What are payment options like for carpal tunnel surgery at Hancock Health?
Hancock Health is committed to helping make great care affordable for all patients. To find out more about payment options, please visit the billing and insurance FAQ page at HancockRegionalHospital.org.
Pre-op and Day of Surgery
How should I prepare for a carpal tunnel release?
Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your surgery and tell your medical team about all of the medications you are taking, including vitamins, supplements, and blood thinners. Your medical team might recommend you stop taking medications—aspirin and ibuprofen included—that make it harder for your blood to clot. If you’re a smoker, try to quit before your procedure, as smoking can delay healing. You might also be asked to get blood tests or an electrocardiogram before surgery.
Why can’t I eat before my carpal tunnel surgery?
There’s a risk of aspiration, which means you’re breathing foreign objects, like food or saliva, into your lungs. This can occur because the anesthetic for your carpal tunnel surgery can impair your body’s ability to stop the contents of your stomach from entering your lungs.
What should I expect right before my carpal tunnel release surgery?
You’ll arrive several hours before your surgery and be escorted to the preoperative waiting area. You’ll remove your clothing and jewelry, and put on a hospital gown. (Your valuables will be placed in a secure area or may be given to a family member.) You’ll sign any necessary paperwork and a preoperative nurse will take your vital signs, review your medications, and answer any questions. You’ll meet your anesthesiologist and the members of your surgery team. An I.V. (intravenous line) will be placed in your hand or arm, so medications—including general anesthesia—can be administered. If you’re using a different kind of anesthesia, you’ll receive an injection. When it’s time for your surgery, you will be wheeled into the operating suite on a stretcher.
Will I need someone to take me home after carpal tunnel release surgery?
For your safety and the safety of other motorists, you will need someone to drive you home after your carpal tunnel surgery. If you don’t have a ride, we’ll help you arrange one.
Why are there so many people on my surgery team?
In addition to the surgeon, you have an anesthesiologist, nurses—some of them specialize in working with patients and others assist the surgeon—and support staff, who get you checked in and out, compile your records, and more. They all work together, performing their individual jobs, so the procedure is as successful as possible.
Why am I asked for my name and date of birth every time I get medicine?
It’s a safety precaution to make sure you’re receiving the medication that’s prescribed for you.
What do I need to bring to the hospital on the day of my carpal tunnel surgery?
Anything you’ll need for an overnight stay, including a change of underwear, a sweatshirt, glasses or contacts, headphones, and your medications. You probably will not be there overnight, but it’s a good idea to be prepared.
How long does it take the anesthesia to wear off after my carpal tunnel surgery?
It takes about an hour for general anesthesia to wear off, but you may notice the effects for a day or so. It usually takes 30 minutes to an hour for local anesthesia to wear off, though the effects can last a few hours.
What will happen during my carpal tunnel release surgery?
You will be anesthetized, and then your surgeon will cut the ligament around the carpal tunnel in your wrist to take the pressure off your nerve. Then, your surgeon will close the incision with stitches, and your hand and wrist will be bandaged and placed in a splint.
When will my family be informed about how I’m doing?
Our associates will get information from the surgical team in the operating room during your surgery and keep them updated.
How long will the carpal tunnel surgery take?
A carpal tunnel surgery typically takes about 15 minutes, but patients usually spend about 45 minutes in the operating suite.
How long will I be under?
You will be anesthetized for the entire carpal tunnel surgery and a few minutes after.
How long will I be in the hospital after a carpal tunnel release?
While the length of a hospital stay depends on each patient’s individual needs, patients are typically discharged within a few hours following the procedure.
What can I expect right after my carpal tunnel release?
After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery room where you will stay until you’re ready for discharge. The amount of time you are in recovery depends on the type of anesthesia and pain medication you receive.
How will I know if the carpal tunnel release worked?
Your surgeon will discuss your procedure with you.
When will I get to talk to my surgeon after my carpal tunnel release?
You’ll be able to talk to your surgeon immediately after your carpal tunnel procedure, while you’re in the recovery room.
How soon after a carpal tunnel surgery will I be up and moving around?
You will be up and moving around almost immediately after the procedure, but patients are encouraged to avoid alcohol, driving, and operating machinery for at least 24 hours after the procedure and while taking pain medication.
Will I receive pain medication right after surgery?
Most carpal tunnel surgery patients receive pain medication immediately following surgery.
How soon after my carpal tunnel release surgery can I eat or drink?
Unless otherwise instructed, you may immediately return to eating and drinking.
Will I need to fill any prescriptions or take medication after a carpal tunnel release?
Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to ease any discomfort associated with the procedure.
Recovery and Follow-Up
What will I need to do to prepare for my recovery from carpal tunnel surgery?
Make sure you have groceries for when you arrive home from your carpal tunnel surgery. If you live alone, you may want to arrange for a friend or family member to check in with you.
How should I prepare for my at-home recovery?
You may want to ask a friend or a relative to check on you and assist with everyday tasks for the first few days following your procedure.
If I need physical therapy or rehabilitation after a carpal tunnel release, how is that arranged?
Your doctor may recommend you begin physical therapy in one to two weeks after the stitches from your carpal tunnel surgery are removed. Our associates will help you arrange the postoperative care you’ll need.
Will I need any follow-up appointments or procedures?
Your doctor will likely schedule a follow-up appointment two to three weeks after your carpal tunnel release surgery.
Will there be any scarring or stitches to remove?
Your doctor will remove the stitches from your carpal tunnel surgery in one to two weeks following your procedure. Depending on the type of procedure you had, you will have either two one-half-inch scars or a two-inch scar. Over time, any scarring will fade.
What do I need to have to care for any wounds or incisions?
Following your carpal tunnel surgery, your wrist and hand will be covered with a dressing you will probably wear for about a week. Once you remove the surgical dressing and the bandages, keep the wound and your skin clean with soap and water but don’t submerge it. Showering is OK, but don’t use salves or creams on your wound. Your care team might also recommend that you keep your wound covered with a non-adherent bandage after your dressing is removed.
What should I do if I have an emergency or accident after my carpal tunnel surgery?
If you have an emergency following your procedure, call your surgeon’s office. If you’re in need of immediate emergency services, go to the nearest emergency room.
When will I be able to get back to work after my carpal tunnel surgery?
It depends on the type of work you do. You will probably be able to drive within a few days of your procedure. After about a week, you should be able to begin to write and that will get easier in several weeks, as you recover. Still, your doctor may instruct you not to pull, grip, or pinch anything for six weeks or more. If your job doesn’t require significant hand movement, you’ll likely be able to return sooner. If it does, you may need to wait.
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