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Open Carpal Tunnel Release

An open carpal tunnel release is a procedure that can help relieve pressure on the median nerve. A small incision is made in the wrist, and the carpal ligament is cut to expose the tendons in the carpal tunnel. If the doctor sees that the synovial coverings on the tendons are excessively thickened, he or she will remove them to allow more space for the nerve.

What Is Open Carpal Tunnel Release?

A carpal tunnel release is a procedure intended to relieve pressure on a specific nerve in your wrist, called the median nerve. When the median nerve is compressed, symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain (usually in the thumb, index, and middle fingers) are produced. It is also common for your affected hand to feel clumsy.
 
One technique for performing carpal tunnel surgery is called an open carpal tunnel release.
 

Beginning the Procedure

To begin an open carpal tunnel release, after the anesthesia has taken effect, a tourniquet or blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to temporarily stop the blood flow to your hand and wrist. This allows your doctor to see the surgical area clearly.
 
To help reduce the chance of infection, the area will be scrubbed with a special soap, and you will be covered with sterile sheets. The only area exposed will be your forearm and hand.
 
Your doctor will then begin by making a two- to three-inch incision, or cut, on the palm side of your wrist. If you are awake, you might feel some pressure as this incision is made. Your doctor will then locate the carpal ligament, which is the "ceiling" of the carpal tunnel. This ligament will then slowly be cut.
 
Once the entire ligament has been cut, the tendons in the carpal tunnel are examined. If the synovial coverings on the tendons are excessively thickened, they are removed to allow more space for the nerve. This will not affect the tendon function.
 
The carpal ligament (which is the ligament that is cut) is left open, rather than sewn together. This gap eventually fills with scar tissue.
 
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