Carpal Tunnel Decompression

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About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In your wrist there is a tunnel made up of a bony arch and a tough fibrous band. One of the nerves to the hand (the median nerve) passes through this tunnel and can sometimes become squeezed. When this happens you may experience numbness, pain, tingling, clumsiness and weakness in the hand especially over the thumb, 1st and 2nd fingers. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
If carpal tunnel syndrome interferes with your daily life then your Orthopaedic Surgeon may recommend an operation to reduce or eliminate symptoms. This is called carpal tunnel decompression: when the surgeon frees the squeezed nerve.

The Surgery
A cut or ‘incision’ is made on the palm of your hand and the fibrous layer (or arch) is revealed underneath. This is divided, freeing the nerve. The nerve is protected throughout the operation. The surgery lasts a few minutes and you can go home shortly afterwards. As you will be awake throughout the surgery you will feel some pulling of your hand but no pain.

Risks of surgery
• The scar may ache but with gentle massage this usually settles down within 3 months of surgery. The pain and tingling will go very quickly.
• Numbness and weakness present all of the time before the operation may improve but it is unlikely to recover fully. This is because the nerve may have been permanently damaged due to constant pressure.
• As with any wound it may become infected but this risk is low.

Alternatives to Surgery
The alternatives to surgery really only treat the symptoms. They include wearing a splint and / or having an injection of steroid into the area.

After the Operation

You will have a large bandage on your hand and will go home on the same day as your surgery.
• You should keep your hand elevated (held up) for 24 hours following surgery.
• It is important to move your fingers often.
• Keep your bandage clean and dry.

Your hand will usually regain most of its strength after about six weeks following surgery.

What happens next?
Your name will be placed onto the waiting list. You may be required to attend for a pre-assessment before your operation.
Pre-assessment – to make sure you are well enough for the operation. You will also receive more information about the arrangements for coming into hospital and what you will need to bring
with you.

If, whilst on the waiting list, you feel you no longer need this operation speak to your family doctor in the first instance and secondly let the Admissions Office at the hospital know by calling telephone number 01908 243912 or 243872.