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Surgery For Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Okanagan Health - Surgery For Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition caused by strenuous pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. If there is frequent pressure, you may experience symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand. The pressure can be generated through persistent movement, compromising hand positions, medical conditions, and genetics. There are many possible treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, but severe cases may require surgical intervention. Carpal Tunnel surgery is done by creating an incision in the wrist to locate and cut the ligament around your carpal tunnel to ease the pressure on the median nerve. Carpal Tunnel surgery provides noticeable benefits and may permanently relieve symptoms.

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Cure Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome With Surgery
 

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome and are experiencing persistent and worsening symptoms that do not diminish with recommended treatments, you may require surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery is recommended for severe cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can relieve you of symptoms permanently.
 

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition involving excessive pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve runs through the forearm to the hand and is responsible for sensation in all fingers, aside from the pinky. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may cause different sensations in your hand such as numbness, tingling, and weakness. Symptoms occur when this nerve experiences pressure at the wrist, where the carpal tunnel is located. 

Basic symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include:
 

  • Frequent numbness or tingling in the fingers
  • The sensation of having swollen fingers even though there is no physical swelling
  • Difficulty grabbing or holding small objects due to weakness in the hand

These symptoms could begin either in the dominant hand or in both hands and maybe experienced only at night. If the condition is left untreated these symptoms could worsen and persist into the daytime.
  
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by undue pressure on the median nerve resulting from any of several factors. These factors are:

  • Health conditions: Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, an overactive pituitary gland, or an underactive thyroid gland often contribute to the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Positioning of the hands or wrists: Activities that require consistent flexion and extension along with performing tasks with your wrists placed at a compromising angle will irritate the median nerve. 
  • Repetitive tasks: Tasks that require repetitive or prolonged hand movements such as writing, knitting, or using vibrating power tools will aggravate the tendons in the wrist and cause swelling. 
  • Genetics: Some people are born with a smaller than average carpal tunnel, putting them at higher risk for irritation if swelling occurs. 

Depending on the severity of the syndrome and the degree of symptoms experienced, there are several treatment options which include:

  • Ice baths
  • Wrist movement exercises 
  • Wrist brace
  • Adjustments to how you perform activities that cause irritation 
  • Steroids
  • Physical therapy 
  • Medication
  • Surgery 


Treatment Using Surgery
 

Severe cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may require surgery. Over time, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause the muscles in your hands and wrists to weaken and exacerbate symptoms to a degree that will limit the effectiveness of alternate treatments.
 
If you require surgery to treat your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, your doctor will perform the surgery with one of two techniques. Both techniques will involve cutting the ligament around your carpal tunnel. This will relieve the pressure on the median nerve and halt your symptoms. Your ligament will heal back together but with more room for the median nerve to function. The difference in surgery options pertains to how the ligament is cut. The surgery options are: 

  • Open surgery: Open surgery will involve a larger incision from your wrist to your palm, to allow the surgeon to locate and cut the ligament. The incision will likely be about 2 inches long. 
  • Endoscopic surgery: Endoscopic surgery uses a small camera and surgical tool inserted into the wrist. The camera displays the ligament on screen and allows the surgeon to locate the ligament and determine the best location to make the cut. The tools for this procedure are extremely small and require a much smaller incision, generally about half an inch long. 

Upon completion of your surgery, expect to have some pain, swelling, and stiffness in your wrist. This can be eased with medication recommended by your doctor. You will have a bandage on your wrist for 1-2 weeks so the wound can properly heal. It is recommended to limit your hand movement during this time to avoid strain. 

Once you have recovered, you can expect to be symptom-free and may never experience the pain again. If you have an extremely severe case, you may still experience slight symptoms but at an improved threshold. 


Severe Cases Require Surgery
 

Although Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated using a variety of techniques. In severe cases, minor interventions may not be effective and surgery may be recommended. Surgery is likely to relieve you of any symptoms and provides a lasting solution. If you are experiencing a lack of effectiveness in your current treatments or if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is causing significant challenges in your day-to-day life, consult your doctor to see if surgery is a viable option for you. 
 

Frequently Asked Questions:
 

What are the risks associated with carpal tunnel surgery?
 
The risks associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are similar to any surgical procedure. These risks include:

  • Bleeding from the incision 
  • Damage to your median nerve and blood vessels
  • An infection where the incision was made
  • A tender scar

To learn more about these risks and how to prevent them call us at 250-868-9799 to discuss your questions and concerns.

Will I need physical therapy after my surgery? 

Once you are fully healed from your surgery you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor. If you do require physical therapy, your doctor will inform you. If you experienced significant muscle loss prior to Carpal Tunnel surgery, physical therapy may be helpful in building your wrist and hand strength. 

When can I get back to my normal activities after my surgery is complete?
 
The recovery time required for different activities will vary depending on the level of wrist movement and potential for straining. Below is a list of the most common activities patients enquire about and the recovery time needed before you can do them again.

  • Driving: A few days after the surgery
  • Writing: About one week after the surgery. Please note that the finger sensation while writing will not improve until 4-6 weeks after the surgery.
  • Gripping, pinching, and pulling: You may attempt these actions with caution 6-8 weeks after surgery but will not likely regain full strength for 10-12 weeks.

 


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