Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Open Carpal Tunnel Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
During open carpal tunnel release surgery,
transverse carpal ligament is cut, which releases
pressure on the
median nerve and relieves the symptoms of carpal
An incision is made at the base of the palm of
the hand. This allows the doctor to see the transverse carpal ligament. After
the ligament is cut, the skin is closed with stitches. The gap where the
ligament was cut is left alone and eventually fills up with scar tissue.
If you have open carpal
tunnel release surgery, you typically do not need to stay in the hospital. It is
usually done under
local anesthetic, and you can go home on the same
After surgery, the hand is wrapped.
The stitches are removed 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. The pain and numbness may go away right after
surgery or may take several months to subside. Try to avoid heavy use of your
hand for up to 3 months.
The timing of your return to work depends on
the type of surgery you had, whether the surgery was on your dominant hand (the hand you use most), and your work activities.
If you had open surgery on your dominant hand and you do repeated actions at work, you may be able to return to work in 6 to 8 weeks. Repeated motions include typing or assembly-line work. If the surgery was on the other hand and you do not do repeated actions at work, you may be able to return to work in 7 to 14 days.
If you had endoscopic surgery, you may be able to return to work sooner than with open surgery.
Open carpal tunnel surgery is
Most people who have surgery for
carpal tunnel syndrome have fewer or no symptoms of pain and numbness in their
hand after surgery.footnote 1
In rare cases, the symptoms of
pain and numbness may return (the most common complication), or there may be
temporary loss of strength when pinching or gripping an object, due to the
cutting of the transverse carpal ligament.
If the thumb muscles
have been severely weakened or wasted away, hand strength and function may be
limited even after surgery.
endoscopic and open carpal tunnel release have benefits and risks. Studies do
not show that one procedure is better than the other.footnote 2
The risk and complication rates of open surgery
are very low. Major problems such as nerve damage happen in fewer than 1 out of
100 surgeries (less than 1%).footnote 2 There is a small risk
that the median nerve or other tissues may be damaged during surgery. After
open surgery, recovery may be slower than after endoscopic surgery. And there
may be some pain in the wrist and hand. You may also have some tenderness
around the scar. There are also the risks of any type of surgery, including
possible infection and
risks of general anesthesia. But most open carpal
tunnel surgery is done with
local anesthesia or regional block rather than with
Open carpal tunnel surgery cuts
open the base of the palm and may require a longer recovery period than endoscopic
surgery. Temporary nerve problems may be less likely with open surgery. But painful scar tissue may be more likely to develop after open surgery
than after endoscopic surgery.footnote 1
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Ashworth NL (2014). Carpal tunnel. BMJ Clinical Evidence. http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/systematic-review/1114/overview.html. Accessed October 2, 2014.
Scholten RJPM, et al. (2007). Surgical treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerHerbert von Schroeder, MD, MSc, FRCSC - Hand and Microvascular Surgery
Current as ofMay 23, 2016
Current as of:
May 23, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Herbert von Schroeder, MD, MSc, FRCSC - Hand and Microvascular Surgery
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