Carpal Tunnel Surgery is an extremely effective form of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome although it is not usually used as a treatment unless symptoms of the condition have not improved following other treatments, normal activities become restricted due to the problem, or when there has been damage to the median nerve.
So what happens before you have Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Obviously most people would rather avoid surgery if at all possible and if you want to do this you need to get diagnosed and get some early treatment. This will help avoid irreversible damage to the median nerve. Diagnosis will involve elimination of other possible causes and will typically involve a specialist examining the painful wrist, and also the hand and fingers. They will be tested for reactions, and muscles will also be looked at to see if they are strong and healthy.
Other causes such as a fracture, arthritis or diabetes can be checked for by X-rays, scans or blood tests.
There are also other, specific tests that can be done to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome and assess someone’s suitability for surgery.
The Tinel test is one such test and to carry this out, the specialist will put pressure on the patient’s median nerve. If the pressure results in a tingle sensation or causes a shocking in the wrist and hand then this is a positive indicator of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The second test is the Phalen test. To carry this out, the doctor will ask you to hold your arms and hands in a particular position. If your symptoms worsen within a minute then this is an indication of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Before resorting to Carpal Tunnel Surgery, electro-diagnostic tests may also be used to confirm that surgery will indeed be effective. Electrodes are used on the wrist and hand to measure electrical activity when small shocks are applied. These results can show a specialist how damaged the medial nerve is.
MRI scans can also be used for similar results and can also help your consultant decide whether surgery is necessary or whether it will be effective.
So what can you expect if you are having carpal tunnel surgery?
There are a number of different procedures available but the one most commonly used is the Carpal Tunnel Surgery release. Well, with the carpal tunnel release, a cut is made into the sheath around the carpal channel itself. This relieves the pressure from the nerve. To access the carpal tunnel, the surgeon will make a 4cm cut in the palm. The carpal tunnel is accessed through this incision and it only takes about a quarter of an hour.
The anesthetic can be general, local or regional and in the latter two cases the patient will stay awake during the procedure. You will need some time off work and will need to rest the hand and wrist afterwards but your consultant will probably give you some exercises to do following your surgery, and if these are followed then your recovery time shouldn’t be too long.
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