Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow channel made of bones and a ligament in which the median nerve lies, the nerve which controls the movement and sensation in the hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition that occurs when there is any swelling of the tissue in or around the carpal tunnel as it creates pressure on the median nerve.

This condition can cause numbness, tingling and loss of sensation in the thumb, middle, index, and ring fingers. Other symptoms include pins and needles, weakness in the thumb and dull aches in the hand or arm. Symptoms usually develop gradually, and often are worse at night. Surgery is needed if medicines or wrist splints have failed to relieve pain, or if the symptoms continue to get worse. 

The operation is usually performed under local anaesthetic as a day-case, which means no overnight stay in hospital is required. The patient has a tourniquet around their arm, this stops the blood flowing to the hand whilst the surgery is performed. The surgeon will make a small incision into the palm of the hand and release the nerve. 


The hand is bandaged so that the thumb and fingers are free to move, this dressing will be removed approximately five days after the operation. A smaller dressing over the wound will be left on for about two weeks.

Patients can continue to drive once they are able to fully move their fingers, usually about one – two weeks after the operation. It may take patients about twelve weeks to fully gain their strength when gripping. If patients had experienced muscle wasting or numbing symptoms it may take up to a year to fully recover. If the patient’s median nerve was severely compressed or they experienced their symptoms for a long time the nerve may never fully recover after surgery.

This is a routinely procedure which is considered to be very safe. In rare cases the complications associated with this surgery include nerve damage, infections, scar tenderness, severe pain or the symptoms reoccurring. The consultant will discuss the advantages and risks associated with this surgery in detail with the patient.