Dr Anne Collins Cosmetic Surgeon

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Carpal Tunnel
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your hand through which the median nerve and nine tendons run.  

Compression of the nerve within the tunnel results in pain and tingling in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. With continued compression, numbness develops, in addition to a weakened grip. Some patients find they drop objects or have difficulty with fine movements. The pain and tingling can occur at night, waking you from your sleep.

FAQs

The median nerve supplies sensation to the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger and power to muscles that move the thumb. Compression of the median nerve affects these digits only. Your little finger is supplied by the ulnar nerve, which doesn’t run through the carpal tunnel and is therefore not affected.

The surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic. It involves making a small incision in your palm and dividing the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This gives the nerve more space within the tunnel and reduces the pressure on it. The wound is closed with stitches and a bulky bandage applied. The procedure takes sixty minutes.

In the early stages of nerve compression, non-surgical measures such as regular pain relief, wearing a splint and a steroid injection may suffice. If your symptoms are not relieved by such measures and/or you are waking at night, you should consider surgery to prevent irreversible damage.

Some discomfort is to be expected after the surgery and Dr Collins will ensure you have adequate pain relief to deal with this. The pain and tingling, in addition to the night time symptoms, tends to resolve in the first 72 hours. Your grip will be temporarily weaker and you may not be able to drive for 1-2 weeks. If the nerve has been compressed for a long time, the numbness and weakness may not resolve completely, though surgery will prevent any further deterioration.

Your return to work will be determined by the type of job that you do. Patients in a supervisory or managerial role can usually return to work after 1-2 weeks. If your work is more physically demanding, you may require up to 6 weeks of leave.

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