This is the most common hand operation that is performed. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the nerve (median nerve) that runs through the palm of the hand goes through a tunnel which is called the carpal (meaning wrist) tunnel. If the nerve gets compressed on its way through the tunnel then it causes symptoms and this is called carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include –
1 Numbness in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half the ring finger
2 Pain in the hand
3 Pain in the forearm
4 Weakness of the hand
It typically gets worse at night when the swelling increases in the tunnel and can be exacerbated by certain positions of the hand eg. Talking on the phone or driving.
The diagnosis is a clinical one however most patients will also require a nerve test to confirm the diagnosis before proceeding to surgery. This is called a nerve conduction study and electromyogram or more simply known as NCS/EMG. It is very helpful if your GP can arrange this prior to your appointment as surgery can then be booked straight away.
The most usual operation performed is an open carpal tunnel release. This is an incision in the palm which is about 4 cm long and the tunnel is released. It is a very successful operation with a greater than 95% success rate and is done as a day case. In severe case it can take a long time for the nerve to recover and the symptoms to improve.
In specific instances an endoscopic approach may be considered.