After Carpal Tunnel Surgery

The post-op room

Everyone is so relieved after carpal tunnel surgery!

after carpal tunnel surgery post op

I love roaming the post-op room where patients rest after carpal tunnel surgery. In the pre-op room, faces are all frightened. Here faces are all smiles and relieved that their operation is finally over. Some are even giddy and joking around.

They’re also happy because they can’t feel anything…yet!

More than likely they had regional anesthesia, commonly known as a nerve block. That means the surgeon only numbs the hand and wrist. Many patients also get supplemental sedation in order to relax and calm them down. You might say it puts them in a semi-conscious state. That’s why there’s no pain right after carpal tunnel surgery.

Right after carpal tunnel surgery

Following  surgery, as every sense comes alive again, you may also feel a sore throat. Some patients need a tube placed in their windpipe during surgery, but the resulting sore throat goes away fast.

Yes, the euphoria is thick in the post-op room! And why not; you deserve it.  After you’re fully alert, breathing fine and vital signs are stable, you can go home! Few have to stay overnight after carpal surgery.

Going home after surgery

The numbness in your hand will wear off by the time you get home.  As you finish calling your relatives, your hand will down right hurt!

Patients describe it as “a different hurt” compared to the previous carpal tunnel pain. This pain is surgical. It’s more like a soreness or pressure in the palm. Your doctor will give you a script for pain meds.

This soreness will likely persist for several months.  Also, the surgical area after carpal tunnel surgery will keep feeling tender, swollen and stiff. In addition, holding and gripping things will be painful. But the pain will  gradually diminish.

Overall, recovery from carpal tunnel surgery will be slow and gradual. The speed of recovery mostly depends on a person’s particular ability to heal fast. It also involves the type of anesthesia used. Other factors include your age and overall health. Another factor are illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. They prolong healing. Similarly, so does being overweight.

You’ll be advised to wear a wrist brace, day and night for 4 weeks. In addition, you’ll likely enter a program of rehab. Rehabilitation includes physical and occupational therapy exercises.

In about two weeks you’ll go back and have the stitches removed. This is a relatively painless process. Also, many feel pinching around the sore operative site.

Finally, after 4-6 months, and assuming no complications arise (infection, bleeding, etc.), your hand should be close to normal again.

Can carpal tunnel surgery fail?

Unfortunately, the short answer is “yes.” The National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland published survey results:

  • About 51% of patients aren’t satisfied one year later. About half of these patients got no relief at all.
  • A smaller percentage of patients report their symptoms got worse. 25% of these patients have  “revision surgery.” Nearly 90% of them result in failure.
  • Only 23% are able to go back to their previous professions. Most patients must find another job that doesn’t require as much hand activity.

More aftercare surgery tips.