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What's it like: To get carpal tunnel surgery

Surgery can correct carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also called median nerve entrapment, referring to the median nerve that runs along your forearm into your wrist and becomes compressed because of swollen tissue.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 12, 2013 at 1:10 am •  Published: January 13, 2013

What are the risk factors?

The risks of carpal tunnel surgery will vary from patient to patient and depend on whether you suffer from other medical problems.

With any surgery, there's a risk you'll have a reaction to the anesthesia and also risk of infection and bleeding. There's also a risk that your surgeon will damage nerves or tendons.

Depending on how severe your symptoms were, there's also a risk that you might not get better. Many carpal tunnel patients do recover, but results will vary from patient to patient.

Because of hand hygiene issues, you usually only have one hand operated at a time. Performing carpal tunnel surgery on both hands can increase the rate of infection.

What's the recovery time?

It can take a couple of months to fully recover from carpal tunnel surgery and feel full function again.

You'll be allowed to go back to work on light duty after a few days. If you have an office job, it's important to understand what restrictions you have on how much you can type and use a computer.

You'll get your stitches out about two weeks after the surgery. After about three weeks, you'll be allowed to get your hands around dirty environments. A carpal tunnel patient is sometimes sent to physical therapy to help with the recovery process.

It's important to listen to your doctor's recommendations in your recovery. For example, your doctor might suggest you perform exercises to help strengthen the muscle. It's also important to ask anything questions you might have before and after the surgery and be honest with your doctor about any concerns you have.

What's the follow-up?

Your doctor will likely want to see you a week or two weeks after the surgery to see how you're recovering. You might also go in about a month after surgery. It's rare to undergo a second carpal tunnel surgery on the same hand.

Sources: Dr. Mehdi Adham, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Southwest Orthopaedic and Reconstructive Specialists; The Mayo Clinic; The National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; American Academy of Family Physicians; The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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