How Do You Know If You Need Surgery For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

How Do You Know If You Need Surgery For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Posted on 06/19/2018

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common disorder believed to affect as many as 6 million Americans at any one time. It is closely linked to repetitive strain injury or RSI – a condition which is characterized by swelling and inflammation due to a job or hobby that requires repetitive movements. When this swelling affects the wrist or hand, it can cause the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway containing a key nerve serving the hand, to become compressed. When this happens, the patient can experience a range of unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms including strange sensations such as tingling or numbness, weakness in the affected area and discomfort or pain.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for CTS, although there are a number of treatments that be used with relative success. These range from pain and anti-inflammatory medications to wrist supports and physical therapy.

When is surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome considered necessary?

For most patients, CTS is a progressive condition that begins so slowly, that the symptoms may not be obvious for some time. If you do notice them, they are easy to ignore, particularly if you have a very active and busy life. However, over time they will begin to get worse unless you seek treatment.

Although many people can manage to live with some degree of carpal tunnel syndrome for some time, there may come a point where the usual treatments and therapies that you use to control your symptoms are no longer working effectively. It is normally in this instance that a patient will arrange an appointment with a specialist hand doctor to discuss the possibility of surgery on the carpal tunnel to release the constricted nerve. Although surgery can alleviate your symptoms and sometimes make them go away for good, there are risks involved with carpal tunnel release surgery that should be a serious consideration. There is also no guarantee that the symptoms of CTS won’t return.

There are a tiny number of people who may find that they suffer from a sudden onset of acutely painful and debilitating CTS. This is very rare and usually only occurs as a result of an injury or infection affecting either the hand, wrist or forearm. If this happens, prompt surgery is usually the only way to achieve effective relief.

Types of carpal tunnel release surgery

There are two types of carpal tunnel release surgery currently available. Both have the same aim – to sever the carpal tunnel passageway to release pressure on the median nerve, then reattaching it in such a way that the nerve has more space and is less likely to become compressed.

Open surgery is the most conventional form of CT release surgery and involves making an incision into the wrist that is large enough for the surgeon to operate through.

Endoscopic CT release surgery is, as the name suggests, the same procedure but performed through several, smaller incisions. An endoscope – a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end – transmits images of inside the body back to the surgeon, who uses them to perform the release and reattachment of the carpal tunnel.

Both types of surgery have proven to be effective at reducing the symptoms of CTS. However, open surgery has a much greater recovery period, requiring four to six months for the wound to fully heal. Endoscopic surgery patients can expect their smaller incisions to heal with minimal scarring in just four to eight weeks by comparison.


Whether you have been suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome for a while and have yet to seek medical help, or if you have exhausted your current treatment options, surgery may be able to provide the relief that you need. To find out more about carpal tunnel release surgery, contact us and arrange an appointment with our nearest, recommended specialist hand surgeon.


Please contact us today to schedule an appointment or get more information about our hand and upper extremity surgical services.