Carpal Tunnel Release
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Carpel tunnel release is surgery to cut the ligament covering the carpel tunnel.
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done to relieve pressure on the median nerve in people with carpal tunnel syndrome. This is when this nerve is squeezed at the wrist as it runs through the carpal tunnel
Surgery may ease symptoms right away. It will take months to fully heal.
Problems are rare, but no procedure is free from risk. Some things that may happen are:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Leading up to your procedure:
Local or general anesthesia may be used. Local anesthesia will numb the area. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
One of 2 methods may be used:
Open Carpal Tunnel Release
A small cut will be made in the lower palm and wrist area. The carpal ligament will be opened. This will free the median nerve. The incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release
Two small cuts will be made on the palm side of the wrist. A small tool with a camera will be passed through the opening. This camera will allow the doctor to see inside of the carpal tunnel. Other tools will be passed through the other incision. These tools will be used to release the carpal ligament. All tools will be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.
How Long Will It Take?
About 15 to 60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Medicine will be given to manage pain after surgery.
At the Care Center
Your wrist will be raised to control swelling. Ice packs will be used to ease swelling.
You may have to wear a brace or splint after surgery. It will take up to 4 weeks or longer to fully heal. Ask for help around the house during this time.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not feeling better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Clinical Practice Guideline on the Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. AAOS 2016 Feb PDF.
Carpal tunnel release. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 23, 2019.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/carpal-tunnel-syndrome. Updated June 24, 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Carpal tunnel syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet. Updated August 13, 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated: 10/16/2020
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