Your wrist contains tendons to bend your fingers and wrist, and nerves to carry signals between your brain and your wrist and hand. Tendons and the median nerve run into the hands through the carpal tunnel – a channel formed by the wrist bones, or carpal bones, and the strong ligament, the carpal ligament, that forms a roof over them. There isn’t much room inside the carpal tunnel, so swelling of the wrist tissues may put pressure on the median nerve. The pressure on the nerve may cause pain, numbness, and pains and needles. The condition is known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated by releasing the pressure on the median nerve, by cutting the carpal ligament. This is called carpal tunnel release surgery.
Carpal tunnel release surgery can be done in two ways: open surgery, or keyhole surgery. This animation shows open surgery. Open surgery is usually carried out using a local anesthetic, injected into your wrist. This completely blocks feeling wrist and hand, and you’ll be awake during the procedure. The surgeon may use a tourniquet on your arm; this is a tight band that squeezes your upper arm. Once the anesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a cut just over your wrist. The surgeon will then cut the carpal ligament, to relieve pressure on the nerve. The skin cuts are closed with dissolvable stitches. Your surgeon will bandage your hand, and may put your arm into a sling for extra support and to reduce swelling.