Minor surgery is option for carpal tunnel syndrome

Published 9:58 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

GH asks: I am a 54-year-old male diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. My right hand goes numb after playing golf. My family doctor sent me to a neurologist for a nerve conduction study. After the study I was diagnosed with moderate to severe carpal tunnel syndrome. I have not tried any conservative treatments and was wondering what my options are.

Dr. Patel writes: Carpal tunnel is a very common problem among individuals between the ages of 50 and 70. The median nerve supplies sensation to the thumb, index and middle finger primarily. If the nerve gets compressed by the wrist, the fingers described can go numb. The numbness can be worse at night and can also cause weakness of the muscles of the hand. If severe enough, muscle wasting can also occur.

Conservative treatment options include a cortisone injection in the wrist and even a wrist splint for nighttime.

The injection can help decrease the inflammation of the nerve. If the injection helps for a while then your symptoms recur, then surgery is likely to have a better result.

Surgical option involves release of the carpal ligament. The surgery usually takes less than 10 minutes, and patients rarely have to undergo any general anesthesia. I perform the surgery with some gentle sedation and local numbing medication during the surgery.

The risk of the surgery is minor. Most patients after the first two to three weeks have no restrictions.

Dr. Manish Patel has extensive training in treating shoulder, elbow and knee injuries, and performing arthroscopic surgery. He is the principal medical practitioner in the offices of Southampton Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, on the campus of Southampton Memorial Hospital. Submit questions about sports medicine, injuries and treatment for this column to sports@tidewaternews.com, or call Patel at 562-7301.