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Related Media: Carpal Tunnel Release

When more conservative treatments fail, surgery is a successful option. Only 5% of patients experience symptoms after surgical treatment.

Carpal Tunnel Release

Endoscopic Release of Carpal Tunnel

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

This simple procedure can be done in several ways, depending upon your particular case and the surgeon's experience and preference.

The thick ligament on the palm side of your carpal tunnel is cut, allowing the contents of the tunnel to expand and the pressure to be reduced. The procedure is ordinarily done in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia, some circumstances may recommend that a nerve block be used to interrupt pain signals. General anesthesia—where you’re unconscious—is rarely necessary.

You’ll be put into a hospital gown and taken to a surgical suite (operating room). After you lie down on an operating table, at least 1 IV line will be attached to a needle in your vein, and monitors may be attached to you to keep track of your heartbeat, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. If you've requested it, you may be sedated for additional comfort.

Approaches to carpal tunnel release include:

  • The open approach, which cuts through the skin to expose the ligament, then cuts across the ligament with scissors
  • A smaller incision that accommodates only the scissors
  • An arthroscope to see the carpal tunnel in greater detail. This procedure will take slightly longer, mostly to set up the equipment. During the arthroscopy, the surgeon can put small instruments into the carpal tunnel to cut the ligament.

Each of these procedures takes only a few minutes. Afterward, your incision will be closed, and you will be taken briefly to a recovery room where the effects of the sedation or anesthesia can wear off and you can be monitored.


Carpal tunnel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 3, 2015. Accessed September 23, 2015.

Last reviewed September 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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