Carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgical procedures and is used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and weakness in the hand caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist). It is recommended when all other conservative therapies have failed and symptoms have lasted for more than six months.
During the procedure, the surgeon cuts the carpal transverse ligament, a band of tissue around the wrist, to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. Sometimes tissue around the nerve is removed as well. With traditional carpal tunnel release, a two-inch incision is made on the palm side of the wrist. In some cases, the surgery can be performed endoscopically, where a small camera and other tools are inserted through two very small incisions to allow the surgeon to see and work inside the wrist; this method minimizes scarring and promotes faster recovery, which can take several months.
Carpal tunnel release is done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. After surgery, patients typically wear a splint or heavy bandage for one week and then begin physical therapy or a motion-exercise program.