Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to a condition affecting the median nerve in your wrist. When you get this syndrome, you experience tingling, numbness, and pain radiating to your arms and hands, and it becomes difficult to use your arm especially around the wrist. The condition happens when carpal ligaments press on the median nerve in your wrist.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
When we talk about carpal tunnel surgery, we are referring to an operation performed to release pressure exerted by carpal ligaments on the nerves. The surgery is also known as carpal release surgery.
There are two different types of surgery that can be performed to release the carpal nerves. Each of these types may require a different approach in terms of the patient's preparation. The two types of carpal tunnel surgery are:
1. Open Carpal Surgery
This is faster and simpler, although it involves a larger incision than that required in endoscopic carpal surgery. In open carpal surgery, the surgeon makes a 2-inch cut in the area between your palm and the wrist. This is the region where the carpal ligament is located.
Making this cut allows the surgeon to cut the carpal ligament, thus reducing pressure on the median nerve. In other cases, depending on one’s condition, more tissue may be removed. Conditions may force the surgeon to remove some of the other tissue in the area to reduce the pressure on the nerves.
Once the necessary tissue removal is done, the surgeon stitches up the wound and covers the area with a bandage.
2. Endoscopic Carpal Surgery
This is a type of surgery where an endoscope is used. An endoscope is a tube-like instrument that is flexible and long enough to be inserted into your body and has a camera and light. The endoscope transmits images of the inner structures of the wrist and hands to a monitor that allows the surgeon to look at magnified images of the structures.
In endoscopic carpal surgery, the surgeon makes two half-inch cuts, one in the wrist and the other in the palm, in the skin over the location of the carpal ligament. These incisions are only large enough for the endoscope and thin surgical tools to pass through. Through this cut, the endoscope is driven into the body and transmits images to the monitor. Tools thinner than the common surgical instruments used in open carpal surgery are driven into the tissues and used to cut the ligament.
Once the ligament is cut, both the endoscope and the tools are removed. A few stitches close the incisions and bandages are used to cover the small, stitched-up wounds.
Measures to Take Before Undergoing Carpal Tunnel Surgery
- Know the Type of Surgery You Will Undergo
Understanding the type of surgery your doctor will be using on you is a very important thing. It will help you prepare appropriately and in advance. Since there are two different types of surgery for releasing the carpal ligament, they require different preparation measures.
The knowledge on the type of surgery that you will be undergoing should be comprehensive so as to ensure efficiency. Always know the risks and benefits of the surgery as well as other options that may be taken.
- Stop Taking Blood Thinners Before The Surgery
Carpal tunnel release surgery will usually be accompanied by some bleeding. This is an obvious consequence especially of the open surgery procedure. This being the case, it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent the excessive loss of blood.
One should stop taking blood-thinning medications that may increase bleeding during the surgery, These include aspirin, clopidpgrel(Plavix), and warfarin (Coumadin). It is also advisable that you consult with your doctor before you stop taking the medicine.
- Talk to Your Doctor About Your Medication
Talking to your doctor about your medication is an important step in preparing for the surgery. You should include not only all the medicines you are taking but also any supplements and alternative or natural remedies. Some medicines are known to have effects that may have an impact the surgery. Informing your doctor about all the medications and supplements you have been taking will help him or her know what to do and not to do during the surgery.
Preparation on the Day of the Surgery
Here are the things to do and not to do on the day of your surgery:
- Always take a shower before going into surgery. This will give your surgeon an easy time. It is also advisable not to apply any deodorant, perfumes, nail polish, or lotions.
- Before going into the surgery room, remove all your jewelry and accessories. Also, make sure that you remove your contact lenses if you wear them.
- Do not shave the surgical area yourself.
- Always follow all the instructions given to you concerning what to eat and what not to eat. This includes when you should have eaten and drunk anything for the last time before surgery. Also remember when to stop certain medications if required to.
- Ensure that you ask your doctor any questions and voice out all your concerns before the surgery starts.
- After the surgery, it will be difficult for you to drive since the surgery involves the area around your wrist. The pain and anesthesia will make driving both uncomfortable and ill-advised. Make sure that you have someone to drive you home.
How to Go About Your Recovery
Preparation for the surgery includes not only what to do before the surgery. There are a number of things you should know about recovering from the surgery:
- You will have to avoid lifting heavy objects until you have recovered fully.
- You have to make sure you take your pain and other medications as instructed by your doctor.
- Elevating the hand that was operated on during the first few days after surgery will relieve pain and swelling.
The Bottom Line
Carpal tunnel release surgery is a simple procedure that will take between 15-60 minutes, depending on various factors. The way you prepare yourself before the surgery will affect how smoothly the operation and recovery will go.
Preparation measures are always important, especially if you know nothing about the surgery. Make sure that you consult your doctor when you do not know what to do. Follow your doctor’s instructions properly to avoid complications.