Did you know that carpal tunnel syndrome affects an estimated 1.9 million people in the US? For many of these individuals, endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery offers a minimally invasive solution to relieve pain and restore function to their hand and wrist.
In this article, we’ll discuss what to expect during and after this advanced procedure, as well as provide tips for a successful recovery.
Understanding Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is a modern way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a problem affecting the wrist and hand. This surgery is done to help people who have pain, numbness, or weakness in their hands because of pressure on the median nerve. Even though it is consider a modern way to perform the surgery, it has been around for well over 20 years, and proven to be effective.
The median nerve is a crucial nerve that runs from the forearm into the hand, and it helps you feel and move your fingers. Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery, which means it uses smaller cuts and tools than traditional surgery. The traditional surgery was a much larger incision in the palm, and is still performed today, particularly when there is a reason to not perform the endoscopic surgery.
Our very own physician, Dr. Randolph Lopez, wrote an article on Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel release. It was one of the largest studies for carpal tunnel syndrome ever published. He and his colleagues perform the same, Brown Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release technique that was written in the article. Why? Consistant results can be achieved, with a 98% chance of resolution of symptoms. The technique is slightly different than what most surgeons perform today, and it’s also been shown to be very safe.
How is the Surgery Performed?
During endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, the doctor will make a small cut in your wrist or palm. They will then insert a tiny camera, called an endoscope, through the cut. The endoscope lets the doctor see inside your wrist and hand without making a large cut.
With the help of the endoscope, the doctor will then cut a ligament called the transverse carpal ligament, which is the main cause of pressure on the median nerve. Once the ligament is cut, the pressure on the nerve is relieved, and the symptoms should improve.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is often done as an outpatient surgery, which means you can go home the same day as your surgery. You will be given anesthesia, which is medicine to help you sleep and not feel any pain during the surgery.
Advantages of Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery has many benefits compared to traditional open surgery. Some of these benefits include:
- Because the surgery uses smaller cuts, there is less pain after the surgery and a lower chance of infection
- With smaller cuts, your body can heal faster, which means you can get back to your daily activities sooner
- Smaller cuts lead to smaller scars, which can be important for people who care about how their hand looks after surgery
- The endoscope helps the doctor see and work on the wrist and hand without causing harm to nearby tissues, which can help you heal faster and have less pain
Potential Risks and Complications
Like all surgeries, endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery has some risks. Some possible problems that can happen during or after surgery include:
- Even though the cuts are small, there is still a chance of infection
- Some bleeding can happen during or after the surgery, but it is usually not a significant concern
- There is a small risk of median nerve injury during the surgery
- In some cases, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may not go away completely after surgery, and further treatment may be needed
Is Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery Painful?
When you have endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, the doctors use anesthesia to make sure you don’t feel pain. Anesthesia is a special kind of medicine that helps you sleep and not feel anything during the surgery.
There are two types of anesthesia often used for this surgery: local anesthesia and regional anesthesia. Local anesthesia numbs just the area where the surgery will happen, while regional anesthesia numbs a larger part of your arm. Sometimes, doctors may also use sedation, which helps you feel relaxed and sleepy but not fully asleep.
Managing Pain After Surgery
After the surgery, you might feel some pain or discomfort in your hand and wrist. This is normal, and your doctor will give you medicine to help with the pain. You might take pain medicine by mouth, like pills, or receive it through an IV, which is a small tube that goes into your vein.
Your doctor will tell you how much medicine to take and when to take it. It’s essential to follow their instructions to manage your pain well.
Comparing Pain with Traditional Surgery
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery usually causes less pain than traditional open surgery. This is because the cuts made during endoscopic surgery are smaller and there is less damage to the tissues in your hand and wrist. Less damage means your body can heal more quickly, and you will likely feel better sooner.
However, every person is different, and some people might have more pain than others after surgery. It’s important to remember that healing takes time and that it’s normal to feel some pain or discomfort as your body gets better.
If you’re worried about your pain, talk to your doctor. They can help you understand what is normal and what you can do to feel better.
The Recovery Process
After your endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, the medical staff will take care of you as you wake up from the anesthesia. They will check your vital signs, like your heart rate and blood pressure, to make sure you are doing well. They will also help you manage any pain you might have by giving you pain medicine.
Taking care of your wound is important to prevent infection and help it heal. The medical staff will give you instructions on how to keep the area clean and dry. You might have a bandage or dressing on your hand to protect the cut, and you will need to change it as your doctor tells you.
After your surgery, you will be able to go home and start your CTS surgery recovery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to take care of yourself and your hand. It’s important to follow these instructions to help your hand heal and get better.
You will have some follow-up appointments with your doctor after your surgery. During these visits, your doctor will check your hand and make sure it is healing well. They will also ask you about any pain or problems you might have and help you with any concerns.
To help your hand get stronger and more flexible, you might need to do physical therapy or occupational therapy. A therapist will teach you special exercises to do at home, and these exercises will help you use your hand better. Doing these exercises is an important part of your recovery, so make sure you follow your therapist’s instructions.
As your hand heals, you will be able to do more and more activities. Most people can go back to their daily activities, like work or school, within a few weeks after endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.
However, the exact timeline for your recovery will depend on your personal situation and how well your hand is healing. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe for you to do different activities.
After your surgery, you might have some limitations on what you can do with your hand. For example, you might need to avoid heavy lifting or activities that put a lot of pressure on your wrist. Your doctor will let you know what you can and cannot do, and it’s important to follow their advice to protect your hand and help it heal.
There are some factors that can affect how quickly you recover from endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery. These factors include your age, your overall health, and how severe your carpal tunnel syndrome was before the surgery. If you have other health problems, like diabetes, it might take you longer to heal.
Tips for a Successful Recovery
A successful recovery from endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery depends on your effort and commitment to follow your doctor’s advice and instructions. Here are some helpful tips to support your recovery process and get you back to your daily activities as quickly and safely as possible.
Prepare Your Home and Work Environment
Before your surgery, make sure your home and work environment are set up to help you during your recovery. Arrange for any necessary equipment, like a splint or brace, and have your prescribed medications ready. Organize your living space so that the items you need are easily accessible, and you don’t have to strain your hand or wrist.
Follow Your Doctor’s and Therapist’s Instructions
Your doctor and therapist will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for your hand and wrist during your recovery. It is crucial to follow these guidelines to ensure proper healing and prevent complications. This includes keeping your hand elevated, taking medications as prescribed, and doing the exercises recommended by your therapist.
Engage in Physical Therapy and Exercises
Physical therapy and prescribed exercises are essential components of your recovery process. These activities help to strengthen your hand and wrist muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain and stiffness. Make sure to follow your therapist’s instructions and perform the exercises consistently to achieve the best results.
Stay Patient and Positive
Recovery from endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery takes time, and it is essential to be patient with the process. Keep a positive attitude and focus on the progress you are making, even if it is slow. Remember that healing is gradual, and it is normal to experience some discomfort and limitations during your recovery.
Communicate with Your Healthcare Team
Stay in touch with your healthcare team throughout your recovery process. Attend all follow-up appointments and inform your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have. They can provide guidance, monitor your progress, and adjust your treatment plan as necessary.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can support your recovery by providing your body with the necessary nutrients and energy to heal. Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to support tissue repair and overall well-being. If you smoke, consider quitting, as smoking can slow down the healing process and increase the risk of complications.
Gradually Resume Activities
As your hand and wrist heal, you will be able to gradually return to your daily activities. However, it is essential to avoid overloading your hand or pushing yourself too hard, as this can hinder your recovery. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on when to resume specific activities, and make sure to take breaks and rest when needed.
Listen to Your Body
During your recovery, it’s crucial to listen to your body and recognize any signs of pain, discomfort, or complications. If you experience increased pain, swelling, or other concerning symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately. They can help you determine if further treatment or adjustments to your recovery plan are needed.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Recurrence
Even after a successful endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, it is essential to take steps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from recurring. By implementing some lifestyle changes and workplace modifications, you can protect your hands and wrists and maintain your long-term health.
Creating an ergonomic workspace is critical to minimizing strain on your hands and wrists. Adjust your desk, chair, and computer setup to ensure proper posture and wrist alignment. Consider using ergonomic accessories, such as a keyboard and mouse designed to reduce wrist pressure, or a wrist rest to support your wrists while typing.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks during your workday can help prevent strain and give your hands and wrists time to rest. Every hour, take a short break to stretch your hands, fingers, and wrists. Additionally, ensure that you maintain a neutral wrist position during these breaks to avoid further strain.
Use Proper Techniques
Using proper techniques during activities that involve repetitive hand and wrist motions can help prevent strain. This might include learning proper typing techniques or using the correct grip and wrist position when playing a musical instrument or engaging in sports.
Your Path to Recovery Starts Here
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is a minimally invasive option that can alleviate pain and discomfort while providing a quicker recovery. By following the guidelines and tips provided in this article, you can maximize your chances of a successful outcome.
The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas are committed to offering exceptional care and support throughout your journey to recovery. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step toward regaining your hand and wrist function.