Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when swelling within a tightly enclosed area of the wrist known
as the carpal tunnel puts pressure on the median nerve that passes through it.
Over time, this can cause progressive numbness, tingling, and weakness
where the median nerve sends it branches to the palm and fingers of the affected hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to strike people who have jobs that require them to perform the exact same wrist-stressing motions over and over.
It may also occur due to wrist injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, or hormonal or metabolic changes.
A tough band of tissue called the transverse carpal ligament stretches across the wrist forming the roof of the carpal tunnel.
A carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure in which this band is cut
releasing pressure on the nerve and relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
When you arrive at the hospital for the surgery an intravenous line will be started
and you may be offered a medication to help you relax.
Carpal tunnel release can be performed under general anesthesia,
which will put you to sleep for the duration of the operation,
a regional nerve block, which keeps you numb from the shoulder down;
or local anesthesia which keeps your wrist area numb.
An uncomplicated carpal tunnel release usually takes between 30 and 90 minutes.
There are two ways to perform the surgery.
In the traditional open procedure, your surgeon will begin by making a single incision in your palm and wrist.
He or she will then dissect through the underlying tissues
to reach the transverse carpal ligament and cut it, thus creating more room for the median nerve.
A newer, minimally invasive technique requires only two tiny “keyhole” incisions
or puncture wounds rather than a single relatively large incision.
It is designed to produce a shorter and less painful recovery period.
The procedure begins when your surgeon uses sharp instruments called trocars
to make two small openings or ports in your wrist and the palm of your hand.
Your surgeon will then insert a fiber optic device into the wrist port.
Images from its camera are magnified and projected onto a video monitor in the operating room.
Using instruments passed through the other port your surgeon will cut the transverse carpal ligament.
At the conclusion of either procedure the wounds are closed with sutures.
After the surgery your wrist and forearm will be put into a splint,
and you will be taken to the post-surgical recovery area for monitoring.
You’ll be given pain medication as needed.
Sense a carpal tunnel release is an outpatient procedure most patients are released within a few hours.
You will be need to arrange for a family member or friend to give you a ride home.