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Carpal tunnel release

3-minute read

This page will give you information about carpal tunnel release. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where there is increased pressure on a nerve that crosses the front of your wrist (the median nerve).

The median nerve runs through a tight tunnel on the front of your wrist, together with the tendons that bend your fingers.

If the tunnel becomes too tight it can cause pressure on the nerve, usually resulting in pain or numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers.

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should get relief from pain and numbness in your hand.

Carpal tunnel illustration
The carpal tunnel.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your symptoms are mild, a wrist support worn at night often helps.

A steroid injection near the carpal tunnel can reduce the numbness or pain in most people but the symptoms usually come back after several weeks or months.

What does the operation involve?

The operation can usually be performed under a local anaesthetic and usually takes about 20 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a small cut on the palm of your hand. They will cut the tight ligament (the flexor retinaculum) that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This stops the nerve being compressed.

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • scarring of your skin
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)

Specific complications of this operation

  • numbness in your thumb, index and middle fingers
  • tenderness of the scar
  • aching in your wrist
  • return of numbness and pain
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your hand

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

Keep your hand raised and bandaged for 2 days. It is important to gently exercise your fingers, elbow and shoulder to prevent stiffness.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Your symptoms may continue to improve for up to 6 months.

Summary

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness in your thumb, index and middle fingers. A carpal tunnel release should improve your symptoms and prevent permanent nerve damage.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

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Last reviewed: September 2020


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