Carpal tunnel release is a surgery that’s used to treat and potentially heal the painful condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors used to think that carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by an overuse injury or a repetitive motion performed by the wrist or hand, often at work. They now know that it is most likely a congenital predisposition — some people simply have smaller carpal tunnels. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by trauma, such as a sprain or fracture, or repetitive use of a vibrating tool. It is also associated with pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The median nerve and tendons that allow your fingers to move pass through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. When you injure this part of the body, swelling can cause the tunnel to press down on the nerve, resulting in numbness and tingling of the hand, pain, and loss of function.
During a carpal tunnel release, a surgeon cuts through the ligament that is pressing down on the carpal tunnel. This provides more room for the median nerve and tendons passing through the tunnel, and usually improves pain and function.
There are 2 types of carpal tunnel release surgery. The traditional method is the open release, in which the surgeon cuts open the wrist to perform the surgery. The newer method is endoscopic carpal tunnel release, in which a tube that contains a camera is inserted through a tiny incision. The camera guides the doctor as he or she performs the procedure. Carpal tunnel release is usually an outpatient procedure.