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Open Carpal Tunnel Decompression


  • You may need an open surgery for your carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder where a nerve in your wrist is compressed (pressed in). The carpal tunnel is the space in your wrist where nerves and muscles of your hand pass through. You may have weakness, burning, swelling, or a pins-and-needles feeling in your wrist and hands. You will have pain or numbness in at least two fingers, including your thumb, index, or middle finger. You may get CTS from using your hand or wrist in the same way again and again. You may also get it if you are often around machines that cause vibrations. Conditions such as tumors, extra bone growth, injury, or infections in your wrist may also cause CTS.
    Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Your caregiver may suggest an open carpal tunnel surgery if other treatments do not work for you. You may also need it if you have a broken wrist or diabetes (high blood sugar). During surgery, your caregiver will cut into your wrist and free any nerves that are compressed. This will decrease the pressure on the nerves in your wrist. Having carpal tunnel surgery may improve your symptoms and make it easier to use your wrist and hand. It may improve the strength of your grip and your pinch. It may also decrease your time off from work due to pain and weakness caused by CTS.



  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Follow up visit information:

  • You will need to visit your caregiver a few days after your surgery. Your caregiver will check if your hand is healing well and will ask you about your symptoms. He may also do tests to see how well your hand and wrist move. Your caregiver will check how well you can grip and pinch. Your caregiver may do an electromyography (EMG) test to check your nerves and muscles.
  • Your caregiver may remove your stitches and bandages. Your caregiver will also let you know when to stop wearing your splint. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Occupational therapy:

Occupational therapy (OT) uses work, self-care, and other normal daily activities to help you function better in your daily life. OT helps you develop skills to improve your ability to bathe, dress, cook, eat, and drive. You may learn to use special tools to help you with your daily activities. You may also learn new ways to keep your home or workplace safe.


  • Avoid lifting and moving heavy objects until your caregiver says it is OK.
  • Do not use your wrist to pull until your caregiver says it is OK.
  • Ask your caregiver when it is OK to return to work.
  • Take some time to rest. When doing computer work, add a little break time every now and then. This will give your hand muscles time to relax.
  • Your caregiver may tell you to raise your arm at different times during the day. Raising your arm may help decrease your pain.


Your caregiver may want you to put ice on your wrist and hand. This may help decrease your pain and swelling. Do not sleep with the ice pack on your wrist.


  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have chills or feel weak or achy.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have swelling, stiffness, or numbness in your fingers.
  • Your finger becomes stuck in the same position.
  • You feel a lump on your wrist.
  • You have questions or concerns about your medicine, surgery, or care.


  • You cannot feel or move your hand.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your wound site is painful even after taking pain medicine.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.