Carpal Tunnel Decompression
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve becomes compressed, causing pain and other symptoms. It’s most common in people who perform repetitive motion activities such as typing or assembly line work.
Your doctor diagnoses carpal tunnel syndrome by performing a detailed medical history and physical examination. Further tests may be ordered including an X-ray to view your wrist bones, blood tests to rule out underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and thyroid problems, and electrodiagnostic testing to assess the speed and degree of electrical activity in your nerves and muscles.
Carpal tunnel can be treated with conservative measures or surgical intervention.
Conservative treatment options may include:
- Treating any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis.
- Your hand and wrist may be immobilized with a splint or wrist brace for 4 to 6 weeks.
- Ice packs may be recommended to keep down any swelling.
- You may be advised to avoid activities that tend to bring on the symptoms.
- Medication and steroid injections may be used to treat pain and swelling.
- You may be referred to therapy to be taught strengthening and stretching exercises.
If these treatments do not provide enough relief, surgery is an option for some people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgery involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament that holds back the median nerve from passing through its narrow passageway in the wrist area. The surgery is done under local anesthesia, so you will not feel any pain during the operation itself; however, you may experience numbness in your hand afterward as well as some swelling around your wrist area where incisions were made during surgery.
When your symptoms of pain and weakness do not improve after a long period of conservative treatment, it’s time to explore surgical options.
If you’ve been dealing with your symptoms for a while, and they are getting severe and restricting your normal daily activities, there is a risk of irreversible damage.
The surgery is done under local anesthesia and lasts about 20 minutes. You are awake during the procedure, but you will not feel any pain because of the local anesthetic.
During open carpal tunnel release surgery, the transverse carpal ligament is cut, which releases pressure on the median nerve and relieves the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. A small incision is made in palm or wrist area. The carpal ligament is cut and the carpal tunnel is enlarged to give the nerve more room.
After surgery, you’ll be wrapped in a heavy bandage. You’ll have some common postoperative guidelines, like:
- Elevate your hand above the level of your heart and move your fingers often to reduce stiffness and swelling.
- Keep the surgical incision clean and dry.
- Avoid heavy pinching or grasping actions for six weeks to avoid irritating the wrist.
- Follow up with your surgeon in 2 weeks to have sutures removed
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