How To Know If You Need Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Anyone can develop carpal tunnel syndrome but certain conditions increase your risk of developing it, including diabetes, hypothyroidism and arthritis. In addition, women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel than men. So how do you know if you need surgery? In his recent blog, Jeffrey M. Jacobson, MD, a Hand, Wrist and Peripheral Nerve Surgery specialist with our Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, explains the two different types of carpal tunnel surgery and how to tell if you’re a good candidate for them.

Do you need carpal tunnel surgery?

Carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the U.S. and its purpose is to free the ligament to allow more room for the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. If carpal tunnel symptoms are severe (such as persistent loss of feeling or coordination in the fingers or hand, or no strength in the thumb) or persist for more than six months, despite trying nonsurgical therapy, surgery may be the most appropriate option for you. In addition, damage to the median nerve (revealed by nerve test results and/or a loss of hand or finger function) would also suggest that surgery would significantly help you.

Standard open carpal tunnel surgeryJacobson.png

In performing standard open carpal tunnel surgery, done under local anesthesia or with sedation from an anesthesiologist, the surgeon makes a small incision in the palm of the hand above the carpal tunnel and cuts through the ligament. This enlarges the carpal tunnel and frees the nerve.

Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release (ECTR) surgery

Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release (ECTR) is a very specialized procedure and should be performed only by a surgeon who has significant experience with the procedure. During this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes a tiny incision (½ inch) in the wrist and inserts an endoscope (a telescope-like device with a tiny camera attached) to see inside the carpal tunnel. He/she then divides the ligament, relieving the pressure. This procedure takes approximately 10-15 minutes and can be comfortably performed under local anesthesia while the patient is fully awake or with light sedation from an anesthesiologist.

There are ways to reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome

You can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making lifestyle changes that reduce your risk factors for developing it, including:

  • exercise
  • stay at a healthy weight
  • manage health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism
  • avoid or modify certain activities that put pressure on your carpal tunnel, such as weight lifting with poor hand form or long distance cycling with improper handlebars

If you’re experiencing pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, come see us

If you think you have carpal tunnel syndrome, please make an appointment with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine to see Dr. Jacobson, a hand, wrist and peripheral nerve surgeon highly experienced in carpal tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel release surgery.

To read Dr. Jacobson’s blog in full, click here.

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