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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a fairly common condition that occurs when there is too much pressure on a nerve in your wrist, which can cause tingling, numbness or pain in your hand, wrist and forearm. Surgery to cut a ligament in your wrist can relieve pressure on this nerve.
The nerve enters your wrist through a narrow channel made of bones and a ligament, called the carpal tunnel. As there isn’t much room in the tunnel, any swelling of the tissue in or around it can compress the nerve, causing tingling, numbness or pain in your hand, wrist and forearm.
It is often not known what causes carpal tunnel syndrome but there are certain things that may increase your risk of developing it, according to clinical sources, including wrist injuries, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and a family history of the condition. Up to a half of pregnant women develop carpal tunnel syndrome, while another trigger may be repetitive strenuous work with your hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely to affect women than men; about three in 100 men and five in 100 women experience the condition at some point in their lives.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if medicine or wrist splints have failed to relieve the pain, or if your symptoms continue to get worse.
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Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, providing reassurance, every step of the way.
A carpal tunnel syndrome operation is usually done under a local anaesthetic, which means that your wrist and hand will be completely numb but you'll be awake. The procedure typically takes between 10 and 20 minutes.
There are two main types of surgery - open and keyhole - and your surgeon will discuss which technique is appropriate for you.
During open surgery, your surgeon will make a single cut (about 5cm long) in the front of your wrist at the base of your palm. He or she will then open the carpal tunnel and cut the ligament to relieve the pressure on your nerve.
If you have keyhole surgery, your surgeon will make a small cut (about 2cm long) in your forearm just above your wrist, or in the palm of your hand. They will then pass a thin, flexible telescope (an endoscope) into the cut to help see inside the wrist either by looking directly through this telescope, or at pictures it sends to a video screen. Your surgeon will cut your ligament using a special instrument attached to the endoscope. This will relieve pressure on your nerve.
After surgery, the cut in your skin is usually closed with dissolvable stitches.
The procedure is routinely performed as day case, so you won't need to stay overnight in hospital.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
Most people have little or no pain and numbness in their hand after surgery, but for some people it can take several months for discomfort to disappear.
Don’t do activities that involve repetitive gripping actions such as writing or gardening for at least four weeks. Follow your surgeon’s advice about driving and returning to work. A full recovery can take up to six weeks.
In some cases, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can return, or you may experience a temporary loss of strength when pinching or gripping objects.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, physiotherapy exercises, advice on what to do and not to do with your wrist and follow-up support.
It’s important to move your fingers and thumb regularly, so that they don’t become stiff. Your surgeon may show you exercises where you straighten and bend your fingers into your palm to make a fist, alternatively gently squeezing a foam ball may help relieve stiffness. You should also move your elbow and shoulder regularly to loosen your joints.
Typically your consultant will want to see you after your treatment to see how you’re doing. You will be given a telephone number for the hospital, in case you need to ask for further advice, and a date for a follow-up appointment.
On rare occasions, complications following a carpal tunnel syndrome surgery can occur. Please contact the hospital if your wound becomes red, hot or painful or starts to bleed through the bandage
Complications specific to carpal tunnel surgery include a small risk of injury to other nerves, blood vessels or tendons in the hand. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
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