What Is It?

Carpal Tunnel Release is a surgical procedure meant to encourage free movement of the hand by expanding the amount of space between prominent tendons and a nerve in the wrist.

Multiple tendons and the median nerve, allow you to flex and curl your fingers. These tendons pass through a narrow, channel-like structure in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. Bones in the wrist called carpal bones help form and stabilize the carpal tunnel at its bottom and sides, while a band of strong tissue called the transverse carpal ligament supports the top of the tunnel when the palm is pointed toward the ceiling.

Why Is It Done?

The carpal tunnel passage is extremely narrow, so even minor tissue swelling within the tunnel can pinch the median nerve and cause pain. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the already confined space becomes significantly overcrowded by swelling. Heredity is an important factor that often contributes to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, along with other medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance. Excessive hand use over time can play a significant role in the disease, which fittingly occurs more frequently in older individuals.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome will most often present themselves gradually, without a specific injury, and are commonly more severe on the outside (thumb-side) of your palm. Patients have cited numbing and tingling sensations in their hand, as though it’s falling asleep. Symptoms, specifically pain, come and go and tend to intensify in different areas of the hand, almost as if the pain is moving up your fingers, or up your arm towards your shoulder. Pain is said to increase when mobility is limited, or the hand is held in a similar position for an extended period of time. If untreated for a significant time span, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can become more constant and begin to affect your ability to perform delicate, everyday tasks.

Non-surgical treatment options such as bracing or splinting, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections are heavily utilized prior to the suggestion of carpal tunnel release surgery. Doctors will work with you to adjust your schedule and limit the amount of aggravating hand activities performed throughout your day, but in many cases these activities are occupational and unavoidable. If pain and symptoms persist following simple treatment measures, surgical release is a viable next step for many patients.

How Is It Done?

To determine whether carpal tunnel release would benefit your situation, Dr. Torrez will thoroughly examine your hand and perform a number of physical tests. Before the procedure Dr. Torrez will go over your medical history and typically ask that you do not eat or drink for 8 hours leading up to your surgery.

During carpal tunnel release surgery, an incision is made at the base of the hand’s palm, providing Dr. Torrez with visible access to the transverse carpal ligament. This ligament is cut in order to reduce swelling and release pressure on the median nerve. In rare occurrences, excess tissue also needs to be removed to relieve further pressure on the nerve.

A fairly simple procedure, carpal tunnel release surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and does not require an extended hospital-stay. Following surgery, your wrist will be bandaged for roughly 2-3 days. Upon examining surgery results, Dr. Torrez will encourage you to begin a mobilizing physical therapy program. Full recovery varies depending on how damaged the median nerve was and how long symptoms occurred before treatment. Most patients regain their full grip in 2 months if problems do not recur.