Does Carpal Tunnel Surgery Help?
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Flip a coin! On one side, surgeons say it helps. But on the other side, 51% of surveyed patients are dissatisfied 2 years later.
So why the big difference? It’s because surgeons and patients look at things very differently. From a surgeon’s point-of-view, success is medically defined as “successfully cutting the carpal ligament.” When you think about it – that’s a pretty lopsided definition.
Even though you “successfully put gas in your car” – it doesn’t mean your car will start, right? (although you might be holding your breath it does!)
So the real question is “Will cutting the ligament be successful in relieving symptoms?” That answer lies in PATIENT SATISFACTION, and surveys show 51% of patients are unhappy with their surgery within 2 years.
So the answer depends on who defines “success.” If you’re thinking about surgery, don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon tough questions. In case you’re timid, take somebody with you who isn’t. Keep scrolling to read about surgery risks below. It may be a good idea to print them to take with you.
Carpal tunnel surgery risks
Every surgery has risks, and carpal tunnel is no exception. Below is a list of the most common:
- Surgery failure:
The biggest risk is becoming one of the 51% of patients whose symptoms return within 2 years.
- Worsening symptoms:
Sometimes, symptoms worsen after surgery. Everyone runs a 12% chance of needing surgery again.
Severe infection is rare – but it happens.
Immobility, stiffness and pain at the scar is normal. Severity varies in patients.
- Decreased hand function:
About 40% of patients suffer some permanent loss of strength no matter how much rehabilitation they get.
- Loss of job time or job change:
While most patients need time off, 23% have to change professions when the root cause is occupational.
- Night pain:
About 10-20% continue to live through night pain.
- Nerve damage:
Lastly, permanent loss of hand function can occur if the surgeon cuts or nicks the nerve during the surgery.
A note about loss of job time
Naturally, the time you’ll lose from work varies also. Some things to bear in mind are:
1) Open release surgery always requires more recovery time and loss of job time.
2) Whether or not you heal quickly is another factor.
3) Also, the commitment you make to physical therapy and rehabilitation also determines how quickly you can get back to work.
Importantly, think about whether or not your job caused your carpal tunnel. If so, then you stand a 23% chance of having to find a different profession.
Is it a coin toss if I really need surgery?
How to know if surgery is your only option
1000s of patients found us after their doctors told them they need carpal tunnel surgery. It’s not like the old days when every one trusted their family doc and would do as they were told. As a rule, suspicion runs higher in patients with carpal tunnel. That’s because of all the bad press hand surgeons got for doing unnecessary operations.
You’ll be REAL happy to know that if you’ve been told you need surgery – there’s a 97% probability you DO NOT. That’s the percentage of patients who found us and canceled their surgeries because the Carpal Rx cured their symptoms.
So it’s a fair question to ask: “How do I KNOW I need surgery?”
The simplest answer is try the Carpal Rx first. If it doesn’t work, you’ll know for sure surgery is your only option.
Think about giving the Carpal Rx a try. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain ($$$ alone, you’ll SAVE at least $4,500 – that’s the average out-of-pocket cost for surgery.)
If Carpal Rx doesn’t work for you, just return it within 60 days. We’ll happily refund your money. Call us with any questions: 800-450-6118.
What gets cut if surgery is your only option
You get carpal tunnel because of constriction deep inside your wrist joint. Carpal tunnel surgery cuts the ligament in your wrist joint so your bones snap open. When your bones snap open – the constriction is released.
So instantly, your symptoms should disappear.
Once severed, your ligament it’s cut forever. That’s a rather extreme option. In most cases, you can heal the damage with myofasical release therapy. That’s what the Carpal Rx gives you.
Nonetheless, in 3% of patients, surgery is the best option. If you’re among these patients, bear in mind careful preparation is important. Preparing in advance for surgery will help increase your probability of success.
Carpal tunnel surgery cost
$6,038: the average out-of-pocket cost of carpal tunnel surgery (combining open release and endoscopic methods) as reported by the National Institutes of Health (2017).
$4,465: the additional average out-of-pocket expense for rehabilitation of your hand as reported by the IBI Annual Forum (2017).
2 Types of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
1) Open Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
Open release surgery is the tried-and-true surgical method. Have you ever watched a gory carpal surgery video? If so, this is what you watched.
First, the surgeon ties a tourniquet on your arm to reduce bleeding. Next, you’ll get a shot directly into your palm or collarbone area. There’s a nerve bundle close to your collarbone that may need deadening. The point of the injection is to numb your wrist.
Next, the surgeon makes a 2-3 inch long incision in your palm. Using a retractor, he or she spreads open the wound. Spreading open your palm makes it easier for doctors to see what’s inside. Thereby it becomes easy to poke around to find what they’re looking for.
The ease of finding what they’re looking for is why many surgeons prefer the open release method. Because of this, there’s much less chance they’ll cut the wrong thing. What they’re looking for is the transverse carpal ligament. It would be disastrous if they cut a nerve instead.
After finding the carpal ligament, they slice it in half. All of a sudden, your wrist bones snap open! When they snap open, the bones no longer restrict the median nerve. Pressure on the median nerve is the source of all your misery. As a result of the decompression, the pain goes away (at least temporarily).
Usually, the operation is performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. However; depending on what you and your surgeon decide, general anesthesia is also an option.
2) Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
This type of surgery doesn’t require cutting your palm open. Instead, one or two small holes are made in your hand. It’s much less traumatic for the patient than open carpal tunnel release surgery. However, the endoscopic technique requires a lot of skill. Requiring a lot of skill translates into being easier to make mistakes, like cutting a nerve.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery can be performed through two small holes (“double portal” method) or through one small hole (“single portal” technique). Whichever is used, the basic idea is to cut the ligament and decompress your nerve.
Since endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is less traumatic, the patient has a much quicker recovery period. There is also less postoperative discomfort and a smaller scar compared to open release surgery.
What happens if you need surgery in both hands?
Bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome surgery performed in one operation is fairly common. Hand Surgery & Rehabilitation journal reports between 22% and 87% of people have carpal tunnel in both hands. And if you get it in one hand, you have an 80% chance of getting it in the other. Patients who had the surgery performed on both hands at one time were glad they got it over with in one shot.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery
Open carpal tunnel release surgery requires added recovery time because of the bigger incision. In contrast, endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery takes much less recovery time. Full recovery from either operation can take from a few months to a year, depending on the person and his or her commitment to rehabilitation. Your recovery time also depends on factors unique to you.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation can take from several months to one year to complete. Rehabilitation is necessary to regain hand and finger strength, dexterity and mobility. Many patients skip or don’t complete this crucial phase of the carpal tunnel surgery. Diminished hand and finger function results.
About half of patients report symptoms relief right after surgery. Others continue to have some symptoms after carpal tunnel surgery. Pinch strength and grip strength usually lessen after surgery; they usually restore after a few months of rehabilitation. The scar, especially the one left after open carpal tunnel release surgery, will feel tender for up to one year.
After carpal tunnel surgery
Immediately after your surgery, you’ll rest in a post-op room. While you’re there, you’re likely to feel giddy both from relief that it’s over and the drugs they gave you. By the time you get home though, more than likely your hand will hurt – a lot. Check out what to expect when you get out of surgery and go home.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Scar
All carpal tunnel surgery leaves a scar. The endoscopic technique leaves one or two small half-inch-long scars. However, the open technique leaves a 2-3 inch-long scar. After the endoscopic technique, one or both scars will be tender and hypersensitive for about 2 months. Following the open release technique, the scar will be tender and hypersensitive for up to a year.