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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome happens when the nerve that crosses the front of your wrist (the median nerve) is trapped causing pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and arm. The nerve passes through the carpal tunnel, a canal in the wrist that carries all the tendons of the hand. If these tendons are swollen, the nerve is squeezed and becomes trapped.

If conservative treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome is not successful your surgeon may recommend carpal tunnel release.

What happens during carpal tunnel release surgery? Carpal tunnel release is usually performed using a local anaesthetic so that you feel nothing and a light sedation so you remain relaxed. The procedure takes about twenty minutes. Your surgeon will make a small incision (cut) in your wrist. They will then cut the flexor retinaculum - the ligament that forms the top of the carpal tunnel - relieving the pressure on the median nerve. The incision will be closed using sutures (stitches). Some surgeons will perform this procedure endoscopically - inserting a tiny camera into the incision to examine your wrist and cut the ligament.

After the operation

Carpal tunnel release is usually done on an outpatient basis meaning you will do home the same day as the procedure. You may go home with a splint or heavy bandage on your wrist. Once these are removed you will begin exercises and physiotherapy to regain movement in your wrist and arms. 

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following carpal tunnel release. As with any surgery there can be complications:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (incision)
  • Scarring

Specific complications in carpal tunnel release include:

  • Continued numbness in fingers
  • Tenderness around scar
  • Aching in the wrist
  • Return of numbness and pain
  • Complex regional pain syndrome – a rare, but chronic (long-term) condition that causes a burning pain in one of the limbs

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