If you or someone you love is a long-time sufferer of carpal tunnel syndrome (or CTS), you may want to educate yourself in the process and benefits of opting to get carpal tunnel release surgery as a corrective measure. Here is a brief introduction to the surgery that is performed and how it may affect you.
When to Consider Surgery
Anyone with CTS symptoms severe enough to leave them with extremely limited use of their hands and fingers, such as a complete loss of thumb strength, is a good candidate for surgery. Sufferers who have nerve damage should definitely look into this treatment, as should anyone with a tumor or growth adding complications to the problem. It may also be the right choice for those who have been suffering for a long period of time, for months for months, using unsuccessful non-surgical forms of treatment. If you are unsure, an orthopedic specialist will be able to examine your symptoms and perform nerve tests to help you decide what course of action is right for you.
What to Expect in Surgery
Carpal tunnel release surgery is usually a fairly simple procedure. It is performed by an orthopedic surgeon using a local anesthetic, and there is no need to spend the night in a hospital. Once the local anesthetic sets in, the surgeon will make a cut at the base of the palm of the hand, exposing the transverse carpal ligament. The transverse carpal ligament is the flexible cord that connects the bones of your wrist to the bones of your hand. This cut releases the pressure on the median nerve, which is the large nerve that runs through your arm into much of your hand. The pressure that is relieved with this cut is what causes the painful and damaging symptoms of CTS. At this point, the incision where the surgeon first entered the hand will be stitched up, and left to heal.
What to Expect Afterwards
After the procedure, the hand will be wrapped up and the stitches removed between 10 and 14 days later. For many, the pain and numbness cause by their CTS will be gone immediately after the procedure. For others, this relief can take up to a few months. Regardless of your personal experience, the hand should not be used in strenuous activity for about three months afterwards. Many patients can return to work in about a week as long as the surgery was on their non-dominant hand and their job does not require intensely repetitive use of the hand. If, however, it was on the dominant hand and the tasks required at work may be risky, you might need between 6 and twelve weeks to recover. This recovery period can be shortened by seeking out a physical therapy program.