What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
syndrome is the term used to describe a combination of tingling, numbness,
weakness, or pain in the fingers, thumb, or palm, and sometimes in the forearm.
These symptoms occur when there is pressure on a nerve (median nerve) at the wrist (carpal tunnel).
See a picture of the
wrist, carpal tunnel, and median nerve .
Carpal tunnel syndrome can
often be linked to repetitive hand and wrist motion. Swelling in the wrist
area, as during pregnancy or caused by a medical condition, can also cause or
contribute to carpal tunnel symptoms. Chronic and severe carpal tunnel syndrome
can lead to permanent nerve damage, pain, and muscle weakness and wasting
What are the risks of chronic, severe carpal tunnel syndrome?
Long-standing carpal tunnel syndrome can cause:
- A loss of feeling and coordination in the
fingers and hand. The thumb muscles can become weak and waste away (atrophy),
making it difficult to grip or hold objects.
- Permanent damage to
the median nerve that results in difficulty using the hand. A damaged nerve may
require surgery, which may not completely restore the feeling and coordination
to the fingers and hand.
What kind of surgery is done for carpal tunnel syndrome?
The goal of surgery is to reduce the pressure on the median nerve in the
wrist. The surgery used to relieve carpal tunnel symptoms is called
carpal tunnel release . This procedure involves cutting the transverse carpal
ligament to relieve pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
approaches for this surgery are
endoscopic. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
When done by an experienced surgeon, endoscopic carpal tunnel release heals
more quickly and does not leave the larger and potentially painful scar that
open surgery produces.
See pictures of
open carpal tunnel surgery and
endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery .
How does surgical treatment success compare with wrist splint therapy?
Research suggests that for people with severe symptoms,
open carpal tunnel release surgery provides more relief to more people than
wrist splint at night for 6 weeks. In one
- At 3 months after treatment, 80% of surgery
recipients and 54% of splint therapy recipients reported successful relief of
- At 18 months after treatment, 90% of surgery
recipients and 75% of splint therapy recipients reported treatment
- At 18 months after treatment, 41% of splint therapy
recipients had since chosen surgery.
If you need more information, see the topic
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.