The Success Rate of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
If you suffer from recurrent bouts of tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand, you are probably one of the estimated 4-10 million Americans suffering with a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS for short.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by pressure on the main nerve, known as the median nerve, serving your wrist and hand. This nerve transmits messages that control sensation and movement in the first three fingers and thumb. The median nerve is housed in a sheath known as the carpal tunnel. However, when there is a problem with the carpal tunnel, the median nerve can become pinched or compressed and this causes a range of symptoms, including the ability to use your hand properly.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome usually causes a range of sensation-based symptoms including tingling or numbness in the hand and fingers and a dull ache or other pain in the hand or arm. The patient may also experience weakness in the thumb and difficulty gripping items, particularly small things like pencils or buttons.
In many cases, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome come and go, and some patients may find that they don’t suffer from any problems for months at a time. When CTS does flare up, symptoms are often worse at night. The condition is also more prevalent in patients who are pregnant.
Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when excess pressure on your wrist compresses the carpal tunnel and causes it to press on the median nerve. In many instances, this excess pressure is a direct result of inflammation.
Some specific health conditions have been associated with CTS, including:
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention (seen commonly in patients who are pregnant or going through menopause)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Autoimmune disorders
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also often caused by repetitive wrist overextension, as is often see in patients who spend extensive amounts of time using a keyboard or mouth, power or hand tools, or playing a sport/doing a recreational activity that involves the hands such as playing the piano or tennis.
Carpal tunnel surgery
While there are some non-surgical treatments for CTS, including minimizing the behavior/action causing the condition, wearing wrist supports and using painkillers, many patients who suffer from repeated bouts of the condition and find that it has a detrimental effect on their day to day life opt for carpal tunnel surgery.
Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting the ligament round the carpal tunnel to take pressure off of the median nerve, which will in turn relieve your symptoms. This can be performed either as an open surgery, or an endoscopic procedure. Endoscopic procedures are minimally invasive and tend to leave smaller scars and have a faster, easier recovery period. However, not all patients are automatically suitable for endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.
How successful is carpal tunnel surgery?
Before we can answer this question, we must inform you that CTS cannot be cured, only managed. That said, carpal tunnel surgery is relatively common and, when performed by a qualified and experienced surgeon, usually successful in alleviating the symptoms associated with the condition – at the very least temporarily. However, it is important to understand that carpal tunnel syndrome can be a recurring problem and while a patient may have been through surgery and obtained relief from symptoms for several years or more, there is always the chance that the condition will recur in the future.
For this reason, the ‘success’ of this surgery very much depends on the parameters against which you are measuring. What we do know is that the procedure to release the carpal tunnel is normally successful in providing, at the very least, a temporary solution to the debilitating symptoms associated with CTS.
If you would like to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome, or would like to schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact our knowledgeable and discreet medical team.