Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery

We offer the latest surgical techniques to ease pain and numbness in your hand caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sometimes also called

  • Carpal tunnel decompression
  • Carpal tunnel release

At a glance

  • Typical hospital stay
    Same day discharge

  • Procedure duration
    20 minutes

  • Type of anaesthetic

  • Available to self-pay?

  • Covered by health insurance?

Why Spire?

  • Fast access to treatment when you need it
  • Internationally and nationally renowned consultants
  • Clear, inclusive pricing
  • 98% of our patients are likely to recommend us to their family and friends

What is carpal tunnel surgery?

Carpal tunnel surgery is an operation to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) by cutting a ligament in your wrist. The ligament runs across the top of your wrist bones and creates a narrow channel in your wrist. This channel is called the carpal tunnel and inside it are tendons and the median nerve.

In CTS, swelling inside the wrist puts pressure on the median nerve. This causes symptoms such as pain, tingling, pins and needles and weakness in your fingers. By cutting through the ligament, pressure is released and the symptoms often go away.

Sometimes CTS gets better on its own after a few months.

If it doesn’t, there’s a risk that your median nerve could be permanently damaged.

Your doctor may suggest carpal tunnel surgery, but usually after you’ve tried other treatments, such as painkillers and wrist splints, which haven’t helped. They’ll also want to know if your symptoms are affecting your daily life or interrupting your sleep.

Carpal tunnel surgery has a high success rate in reducing the painful symptoms of CTS and improving quality of life. Your consultant will help you decide if surgery is likely to benefit you.

Find your nearest Spire hospital

Almost all our hospitals offer carpal tunnel surgery and have consultants who specialise in this procedure. You may be seen by a plastic surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon or hand surgeon.

Spire Nottingham Hospital

How carpal tunnel surgery works

Carpal tunnel surgery is a quick procedure in which your surgeon opens the carpal tunnel and cuts your transverse carpal ligament. This ligament sits across the front of your wrist and connects the small bones in your wrist, helping to form your carpal tunnel.

Cutting the ligament creates more room in your carpal tunnel and reduces pressure on your median nerve (decompression).

The operation is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, so you’re awake but can’t feel anything in your hand.

Carpal tunnel surgery can be done using open or keyhole surgery. Open surgery involves making one incision (cut) in your wrist, so the surgeon can open the carpal tunnel and cut the ligament.

Keyhole surgery means having a smaller incision and inserting a thin, flexible telescope (an endoscope) to see inside the wrist. Your surgeon cuts your ligament using a special instrument attached to the endoscope.

Your consultant will advise you on which technique is best for you.

Your operation: what to expect

How long does carpal tunnel surgery take?

The procedure will take about 20 minutes once your anaesthetic has taken effect.

Anaesthetic choices

The surgery is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. This means you’ll be awake during the procedure but can’t feel anything in your hand. Your consultant will recommend the best option for you, taking into account your wishes.

Pain after carpal tunnel surgery

As with any surgery, you’re likely to feel discomfort once the anaesthetic wears off. But don’t worry – you’ll be given painkillers to help you manage this in the following days.

Your hospital stay

You’ll be able to go home on the same day and won’t need to stay in hospital overnight.

Your recovery: what to expect

Everyone’s different, so how long it takes to recover from your surgery will depend on your general health and how severe your CTS is. You can look forward to getting back to everyday activities in a month or so, but it can take up to three months to regain full strength in your hand.

It's entirely normal to experience the following in the days and weeks after carpal tunnel surgery:

  • Pain around the incision
  • Pain when using your hand
  • Swelling
  • Tender, lumpy, pink scarring
  • Weakness in your grip

These symptoms should improve over time, and most people find the pain caused by their CTS disappears.

Your lifestyle after treatment

You won’t be able to drive after your surgery, so you’ll need to arrange transport home. Before you go, our nursing team will advise you on how to take care of your hand as it heals. Tips include:

  • Keeping your hand dry until your stitches have been removed
  • Keeping your hand up when you aren’t using it
  • Keeping your hand mobile by light activities, such as cleaning your teeth or brushing your hair

Risks and complications

Most people have carpal tunnel surgery without complications, but all surgery carries some risks, and your consultant will explain them to you before you go ahead.

Although rare, carpal tunnel surgery complications can include:

  • Injury to the median nerve or other nerves
  • Permanent tenderness around the scar
  • Weakness or numbness in your hand

At Spire hospitals, your safety is our top priority. We have high standards of quality control, equipment and cleanliness and an ongoing system of review and training for our medical teams.

Treatment and recovery timeline

Although everyone’s different, here’s a typical recovery timeline for carpal tunnel surgery:

View interactive timeline View full timeline

Same day

You’ll be able to leave hospital

1-2 days

Able to wriggle fingers

3-14 days

Stitches removed

14-21 days

Return to work (depending on your job)

1 month

Resume normal activities

3 months

Fully recovered

  • Same day

    You’ll be able to leave hospital

  • 1-2 days

    Able to wriggle fingers

  • 3-14 days

    Stitches removed

  • 14-21 days

    Return to work (depending on your job)

  • 1 month

    Resume normal activities

  • 3 months

    Fully recovered

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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