"carpal tunnel release" surgery


Release of the transverse carpal ligament is known as "carpal tunnel release" surgery. It is recommended when there is static (constant, not just intermittent) numbness, muscle weakness, or atrophy, and when night-splinting no longer controls intermittent symptoms. In general, milder cases can be controlled for months to years, but severe cases are unrelenting symptomatically and are likely to result in surgical treatment.

In carpal tunnel release (also known as carpal tunnel decompression) surgery, the goal is to divide the
transverse carpal ligament in two. This is a wide ligament that runs across the hand, from the scaphoid bone to the hamate bone and pisiform. It forms the roof of the carpal tunnel, and when the surgeon cuts across it (i.e., in a line with the ring finger) it no longer presses down on the nerve inside, relieving the pressure.Procedure

Historically, carpal tunnel release was performed under general anaesthesia with a tourniquet, however the worldwide trend is now for 'wide awake hand surgery': with no tourniquet, no general or regional anaesthesia and no sedation; which also enables carpal tunnel release to be performed under local anaesthesia as a one stop procedure.

The two major types of surgery are open carpal tunnel release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release. Most surgeons historically have performed the open procedure, widely considered to be the gold standard. However, since the 1990s, a growing number of surgeons now offer endoscopic carpal tunnel release.

Open surgery involves an incision on the palm about an inch or two in length. Through this incision, the skin and subcutaneous tissue is divided, followed by the palmar fascia, and ultimately the transverse carpal ligament.

Endoscopic carpal tunnel release

Endoscopic techniques or endoscopic carpal tunnel release involve one or two smaller incisions (less than half inch each) through which instrumentation is introduced including a synovial elevator, probes, knives, and an endoscope used to visualize the underside of the transverse carpal ligament. The endoscopic methods do not divide the subcutaneous tissues or the palmar fascia to the same degree as the open method does. Many studies have been done to determine whether perceived benefits of a limited endoscopic or arthroscopic release are significant. Brown et al. conducted a prospective, randomized, multi-center study and found no significant differences between the two groups with regard to secondary quantitative outcome measurements. However, the open technique resulted in more tenderness of the scar than the endoscopic method. In addition, in patients without workers compensation issues, the single-incision endoscopic carpal tunnel release led to less palmar tenderness and a quicker return to work compared to the two-incision endoscopic carpal tunnel .

Many surgeons have embraced limited incision methods. It is considered to be the procedure of choice for many of these surgeons with respect to idiopathic carpal tunnel syndrome. Supporting this are the results of some of the previously mentioned series that cite no difference in the rate of complications for either method of surgery. Thus, there has been broad support for either surgical procedure using a variety of devices or incisions. The primary goal of any carpal tunnel release surgery is to divide the transverse carpal ligament and the distal aspect of the volar ante brachial fascia, thereby decompressing the median nerve.


Surgery to correct carpal tunnel syndrome has a high success rate. Up to 90% of patients were able to return to their same jobs after surgery. In general, endoscopic techniques are as effective as traditional open carpal surgeries, though the faster recovery time typically noted in endoscopic procedures is felt by some to possibly be offset by higher complication rates.[18][19] Success is greatest in patients with the most typical symptoms. The most common cause of failure is incorrect diagnosis, and it should be noted that this surgery will only mitigate carpal tunnel syndrome, and will not relieve symptoms with alternative causes. Recurrence is rare, and apparent recurrence usually results from a misdiagnosis of another problem. Complications can occur, but serious ones are infrequent to rare.