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Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

Surgery may be done if your carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms become severe. Or you may have surgery if no other treatment eases your symptoms. There are 2 types of CTS surgical procedures. You will be told about the one you will have. You’ll also be instructed on how to prepare for it.

Palm of hand with incision sites for carpal tunnel surgery.

Hand with palm up, showing carpal tunnel anatomy and cut ligament.

The goals of surgery

Two types of surgery are used to treat CTS: open and endoscopic.

  • Open surgery. With open surgery, your surgeon makes 1 cut (incision) in your palm. Standard surgical tools are used.

  • Endoscopic surgery. For this surgery, 1 or 2 small incisions are made in your hand or wrist. A thin tube with a very small camera attached (endoscope) is inserted under the carpal ligament. Tiny tools are inserted there as well. The surgeon then operates while watching images on a video screen. Each procedure has the same goal: Your surgeon will relieve pressure on the median nerve. To do this, the transverse carpal ligament is cut (released).

After surgery

If you’ve had carpal tunnel surgery, you will spend a few hours resting before you go home. The nerve sensation and blood circulation in your hand will be checked at this time. For the safest healing, do the following:

  • Keep your hand raised above heart level. This will help reduce swelling.

  • Limit hand and wrist use as instructed. You may need a wrist brace.

  • Take any pain medicine as directed.

  • Do hand exercises as directed by your surgeon or therapist.

When to call the surgeon

Call your surgeon if you notice any of the following:

  • White or pale-blue hand or nails (you pinch your skin or nail and the color doesn’t return)

  • Pain that is not relieved by prescribed medicine

  • Loss of sensation or excess swelling in hand or fingers

  • Pus-like liquid oozing out of your wound

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)

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