Carpal Tunnel Repair

Carpal Tunnel Surgery in Columbus, OH

Carpal tunnel syndrome can make performing normal daily tasks painful and challenging. This is especially true today, when many of us rely heavily on technology to do our jobs and navigate the world around us. Though computer usage has not been proven to cause carpal tunnel syndrome, there is no doubt that it exacerbates symptoms for sufferers.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is making it difficult for you to function at home or at work, help is available in the form of carpal tunnel repair. Dr. Zochowski, a highly trained reconstructive plastic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio, specializes in carpal tunnel surgery. This operation releases pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, providing long-lasting relief from the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. For patients with persistent carpal tunnel symptoms, this solution is both safer and more effective than relying on pain medication.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, affecting up to 10% of the population. Not all cases of carpal tunnel syndrome require surgery, but when a patient experiences severe and persistent pain, numbness, and tingling in his or her wrist and fingers, surgery may be the best option. Surgery is also frequently recommended in cases where carpal tunnel syndrome has restricted usage of the hand (by making it difficult for the patient to grip objects or perform tasks that require fine motor coordination).

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel—a thin tunnel inside the wrist that’s comprised of ligament and bone—becomes inflamed. Inflammation tightens the tunnel, putting pressure on the median nerve inside the wrist. This pressure irritates the nerve, causing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes, chronic inflammation in the carpal tunnel permanently alters the ligaments around the median nerve. The lining around them becomes thickened, narrowing the carpal tunnel even further.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated, poor circulation and restricted flexibility can cause muscle wasting at the base of the thumb. A loss of sensation in the thumb and index finger can also occur.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused by a combination of factors. While repetitive strain injuries can worsen problems with the carpal tunnel, they are not usually the only cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. (There are some possible exceptions to this rule. Long-term repeated use of vibrating hand tools has been associated with an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.) Researchers believe that genetic and environmental factors make some people more prone to developing this condition than others. You are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome if any of the following criteria apply to you:

Fractures and even severe strains can cause unfavorable changes in the structure of the carpal tunnel, eventually leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. The presence of cysts can also contribute to nerve compression.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in women three times more often than it occurs in men. Researchers are not sure why women experience a heightened risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s thought that differences in wrist structure and fluid retention (a common side-effect of premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, and menopause) play a role.

Some medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and problems with the pituitary gland, appear to contribute to problems with the carpal tunnel.

Carpal Tunnel Repair Surgery Explained

During carpal tunnel repair surgery, an incision is made in the transverse carpal ligament. This incision loosens the ligament slightly, allowing the carpal tunnel to expand. This relieves pressure on the median nerve, reducing symptoms of pain, numbness, and tingling. Carpal tunnel surgery can also protect your hands from permanent damage. Opening the carpal tunnel will improve circulation and flexibility in the hand, preventing muscle wastage and loss of sensation.

Carpal tunnel surgery is performed using conventional (open) techniques. When you come in for a consultation, Dr. Zochowski will discuss your symptoms and determine if you are a candidate for carpal tunnel repair surgery. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical (rather than aesthetic) problem, therefore carpal tunnel repair is usually covered by medical insurance. Dr. Zochowski accepts several types of health insurance in order to make carpal tunnel surgery more accessible for his patients.

Carpal tunnel repair surgery can be performed under general anesthesia; however, the majority of carpal tunnel repairs are performed using just local anesthesia, so you won’t experience prolonged drowsiness after your surgery. You will still need someone to drive you home and assist you with some of your daily tasks, because your wrist will require complete rest.

Schedule a Private Consultation

If you’re in the Columbus area and have any questions or wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Christopher Zochowski, please contact our office today.

What to Expect During Recovery from Carpal Tunnel Repair Surgery

Carpal tunnel surgery recovery is not typically very painful; many patients experience some degree of relief from their prior symptoms within just a few days. Still, the delicate structure of the wrist makes carpal tunnel surgery recovery a lengthy process. You will need to wait at least three to five days before you use your wrist for anything (including driving). You will not be able to write, type, or perform other fine motor tasks until at least one to two weeks after your surgery. Gripping or pinching objects will not be possible for six to eight weeks, and you will need to wait ten to twelve weeks for your full strength to return.

Schedule a Carpal Tunnel Repair Consultation in Columbus, OH

If your doctor has recommended that you pursue carpal tunnel repair surgery, arranging a consultation with a reconstructive plastic surgeon is your next step. As one of the leading experts on reconstructive hand surgery in Columbus, Dr. Zochowski can use his experience and expertise to give you relief from the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact Zochowski Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to learn more about how carpal tunnel surgery can help you.

Carpal Tunnel Post-Operation

Start your diet with clear liquids or a light soup. Most people can resume a normal diet the day after surgery. Advance your diet as tolerated to your regular diet over the next 24 hours.

You may experience some constipation as a result of the pain medication. Over the counter laxatives such as Milk of Magnesia or a stool softener. If this is not sufficient, then dulcolax or suppository may be necessary. These can be purchased over the counter at the pharmacy.

On the day of surgery and for 2 days after, please avoid exertion, straining, bending or lifting. I encourage you to be modestly active after the first few post-operative days. Walking is perfect. Avoid exercise until we discuss it at your first post op visit. Do not use the operated hand for exercise until we discuss this at the first post op visit.

Open and close the fingers and thumb 10 times each hour to keep the joints moving and help reduce swelling.

Do not apply pressure to the palm of your operated hand (activities like using a cane or walker). This may cause splitting of your suture line.

Elevate the hand to help reduce swelling and pain. The hand should be held at a level above your heart. When sleeping, prop the hand up on pillows.

Keep the bulky dressing on and dry for 2 days. If you shower, cover the hand with a plastic bag and a rubber band. After 2 days you may remove the dressing. At this point you will notice a suture line. After 2 days, and the removal of the dressing, you should begin to wash the hand at least twice daily with soap and water. Then apply bacitracin (or other antibacterial ointment) and a band-aid.

You may notice some numbness in the fingers after surgery that may last anywhere from several hours to days. This is quite normal and is from the local anesthesia we use in the operating room.

It is fine to bathe when you feel well. Keep the dressing intact and dry the first 2 days, after that you may get the wound wet. Avoid submersion of the wound in stagnant water and water of questionable cleanliness (hot tub, lakes, ponds, etc…)

Pain medication will be prescribed for post operative pain management. In one or two days you will probably be able to substitute Tylenol every 6-8 hours as needed. (Do not take the Tylenol with the Percocet, both have acetaminophen). Please do not drive until you are no longer taking the narcotic and are free of significant pain.

If there is a problem, please call the office (614) 604-7820. Most issues are easily addressed and do not require significant intervention.

The most common emergencies that might need attention are:

  • Sudden increase in pain
  • Nausea that lasts 4 hours or more and does not respond to medication
  • Bleeding that is profuse and uncontrolled
  • High fever lasting more than a few hours and not responding to medication
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Loss of consciousness

If you feel the situation is urgent, call 911 and/or proceed directly to the closest emergency room. Please call us as well.

Follow-up is typically in about 7 days and should be scheduled by calling the office at (614) 604-7820 if it has not already been arranged.

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