Carpal tunnel release surgery

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterised by pain, pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the hand and fingers, and sometimes also the arm.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

It’s caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel – a ‘tunnel-like’ section in the wrist that carries the tendons to the hand. The median nerve can become compressed if these tendons are swollen or inflamed and there isn’t enough space around them.

It can potentially affect anyone but is particularly seen in people whose work involves repetitive wrist strain, such as office workers using a computer every day. Pregnancy can also be a trigger, and people who’ve had previous wrist injuries may be more at risk.

Treatment

Carpal tunnel syndrome often takes months to get better and the pain can be severe. Painkillers and wearing a wrist splint can help but in some cases, surgery may be required.

Carpal tunnel release surgery is a relatively quick and straightforward minimally invasive procedure, usually carried out with local anaesthetic and mild sedation – so although you won’t be fully asleep, you won’t feel any pain. The procedure involves making a very small incision in the wrist. The surgeon will then make a small cut to the ligament at the top of the carpal tunnel, releasing pressure on the median nerve. It takes around 20 minutes and you should be able to go home shortly afterwards (although you’ll need somebody to take you home if sedation was used).

Aftercare

Your surgeon, and possibly a physiotherapist, will advise on aftercare. Most people are able to resume regular daily activities fairly quickly. Although it is not always 100% successful, the majority of people find carpal tunnel surgery is effective and achieves very positive long-term results.

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