Today we do more repetitive work with our fingers than in older times. Tasks such as typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on the median nerve and typified by pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling. One of the options for treatment is surgery. In this outpatient procedure, our Elite Plastic Surgery team relieves pressure on the median nerve, which is causing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is the carpal tunnel?
The carpal tunnel sounds like something you’d pay five bucks to use going under the Detroit River heading into Windsor. But in your arm, the carpal tunnel is a narrow, fibrous passage in the wrist that protects the median nerve. This is the nerve responsible for movement and sensation in the hand and thumb, index and middle fingers. The canal can become congested, leading to tingling and numbness in the fingers — carpal tunnel syndrome. When options such as splinting don’t work, our surgeons can open up this congestion and head off a possible loss of strength and dexterity in the fingers.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
It seems odd that a normal nerve routing can become crowded, but that is what happens. Anything that decreases the amount of space in the carpal tunnel increases the amount of tissue in the tunnel or increases the sensitivity of the median nerve can lead carpal tunnel syndrome. The decreasing space starts to put the squeeze on the median nerve. This is a case of nerve impingement or compression. This compression and can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the affected fingers and thumb of the hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is predominantly a condition acquired by people who have repetitive jobs using their hands. The repetition is usually a motion that the person doesn’t even realize they do the same way over and over again. It affects women more often than men. The condition usually begins as an ache in the wrist that may extend down to the forearm or up to the hand. As carpal tunnel syndrome worsens, the patient may experience tingling or numbness in the fingers or pain radiating through the entire arm. The tingling is a sign of issues with the nerve, and this can lead to weakness in the hand in question along with difficulty grasping small objects.
Carpal tunnel release
Once conservative treatments, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, splints, physical therapy, and the use of cold packs, have been exhausted and the patient still is showing symptoms, surgery may be necessary.
This procedure is called carpal tunnel release. It is an outpatient procedure that can be performed two ways: endoscopically or through an open procedure. Which method we opt to perform depends on the individual situation of each patient.
Open carpal tunnel release involves a two-inch incision in the middle of the palm. This provides the surgeon a better view of the treated area and involves less risk of accidentally damaging nerves in the area.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel release involves only two tiny incisions and makes for less post-operative pain and a faster return to work. There may be a slightly higher chance of needing another surgery down the road.