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How does surgery help treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

Dr. David A. Cautilli, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery can help treat its symptoms. The carpal tunnel is an area in the wrist that everyone has. It's a space that's surrounded by bones and a ligament and has tendons and a nerve inside. Over time, some people's tendons can become thick, exerting pressure on the nerve. This gives people the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, such as tingling, numbness, pain or a loss of strength in their hands. Carpal tunnel surgery releases the pressure on the carpal tunnel, taking the pressure off the nerve so it can recover.

Dr. Noel Henley, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by decreased blood flow in the median nerve.

Pressure from thick tendon linings or fluid builds up within the carpal tunnel (a tight space containing nine tendons and the median nerve) and compresses the nerve's blood supply.

To relieve the pressure, a surgeon cuts the transverse carpal ligament, which relieves the pressure. This allows more blood flow to reach the nerve and the nerve fibers can begin healing.

If your symptoms are severe or last a very long time, surgery may be the best treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome. The goal of surgery is to cut the swollen tissue that's putting pressure on your nerve. Sometimes doctors will make very small cuts in your wrist and then use a small camera to see inside your carpal tunnel. Other times, doctors will make bigger cuts in your palm and go into the carpal tunnel that way. It may take a few weeks to see results, but most people do experience great improvements after surgery.

Dr. Prosper A. Benhaim, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament, which is the anatomic roof of the carpal tunnel. This opens up the carpal tunnel space, thereby relieving the pressure on the median nerve. This allows the nerve to regain better blood supply and better functional capacity. Most people with carpal tunnel syndrome respond well to surgery, with significant improvement in sensation and strength. Surgery can be performed in an open fashion with a 1 to 1 1/2 inch incision at the base of the palm, or using a minimally invasive endoscopic surgical technique using a very small incision and video camera to achieve release of the transverse carpal ligament. Satisfaction rates with surgical release for carpal tunnel syndrome are greater than 90 percent.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.