What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition caused by overuse of the hands and wrists. Anyone whose occupation involves repetitive wrist actions or strenuous hand and wrist movements is at risk. Pregnant women and older individuals are also more likely to suffer from CTS. The carpal tunnel is made up on one side by bones and the other side by a stout ligament. The median nerve is accompanied by 9 tendons through this tunnel, and whenever there is an increase in pressure from swelling or crowding, the nerve can get squeezed in this unyielding tunnel. This often causes numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment Options
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may start conservatively. Wearing supportive wrist braces at night is often an initial step. This will help keep your wrists in a neutral position avoiding wrist flexion and further compression of the nerve. In the early stages, splinting or cortisone injection is likely to help symptoms. When symptoms persist, surgery is an excellent option and is the most reliable way to provide long lasting relief. There are different techniques available, but the least invasive technique available is endoscopic carpal tunnel release. This minimizes recovery time to typically just a week or 2. Operative treatment may be offered if you have a severe case of nerve compression or if conservative treatments have been exhausted and your symptoms still persist.
If you are showing signs of nerve damage or severe symptoms, surgery may be considered necessary to avoid long-term damage. This is because damage to the median nerve can be permanent and can affect function in the hand and fingers.
Are There Any Risks?
Risk and complication rates are extremely low with this procedure. Major problems such as nerve damage happen in less than one percent of surgeries.
Although very rare, this is the list of possible complications: injury to nerves, blood vessels, and tendons, along with typical surgical risks such as infection.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
During Carpal Tunnel Surgery, also called Carpal Tunnel Release, a tiny camera called an endoscope is inserted into the carpal tunnel. Once good visualization is achieved and the nerve is protected, Dr. Ghobadi uses very small cutting tools to cut the tight ligament that forms the ceiling of the tunnel, and thereby relieves compression on the nerve. This allows the tunnel to open up and decompresses the median nerve. Cutting this ligament does will not cause loss of strength or function. The miniature size of the equipment means that scars are minimized, there is less pain, and recovery is quicker.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery
Full recovery after carpal tunnel surgery takes about a month. Your doctor will probably prescribe a medication for pain control after surgery. During the first five days after surgery you will wear a bandage on your hand and wrist. After five days you will remove the bandage and cover the incision with a Band-Aid. At this point you can begin range of motion with the wrist. Two weeks after surgery you will be seen in the office and have your stitches removed. At this point you can return to all activities. Generally physical therapy is not part of your recovery.
(For more post-op information, click here!)
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Results
After surgery, most patients have few if any of their former symptoms of pain and numbness in their hand and fingers. We have had phenomenal success at Advanced Orthopedics & Hand Surgery with this procedure. There are rare cases when the pain and numbness return. If the thumb muscles have been severely weakened or have wasted away by prolonged compression of the nerve, regaining hand strength and function may be limited, despite relieving the compression on the nerve.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is very successful at alleviating pressure on the median nerve running through the carpal tunnel. As noted above, there is less than a one percent chance of complications, including return of symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and would like information on treatment, contact one of our New Jersey offices today! Call (973) 942-1315 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists.