A carpal tunnel release is surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve located inside the carpal tunnel, an area on the palm side of the wrist that supplies sensation to the thumb, index, middle, and half the ring finger. This is done by cutting a band of fibrous tissue that holds the wrist joint together (transverse ligament) and forms the top of the carpal tunnel. With the pressure alleviated, the nerve is able to heal and the painful wrist syndrome is corrected.The carpal tunnel is a small area formed by the three wrist bones and the transverse ligament. A nerve and the tendons that curl (flex) the fingers pass through this area. Any type of swelling or inflammation can irritate the carpal tunnel, putting pressure on the nerve.

Understanding the procedure

There are two effective methods to perform carpal tunnel release. Both are performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning no hospital stay is required.

The most common is an "open" technique which involves a short incision or cut, about two or three inches on the palm side of the wrist. The surgeon will then locate the carpal ligament, which is on top of the carpal tunnel. This ligament will then be cut to release the pressure on the nerve which passes beneath it.

Indications for the procedure

Carpal tunnel release is usually recommended when other conservative treatments have failed, including icing, splints or braces, anti-inflammatory medicines, steroid injections, physical therapy, or ultrasound. It is also indicated when the severity of symptoms cause loss of hand function.