During the procedure, the surgeon cuts the carpal transverse ligament, a band of tissue around the wrist, to relieve the pressure on the median nerve.
Sometimes tissue around the nerve is removed as well. With traditional carpal tunnel release, a two-inch incision is made on the palm side of the wrist. In some cases, the surgery can be performed endoscopically, where a small camera and other tools are inserted through two very small incisions to allow the surgeon to see and work inside the wrist; this method minimizes scarring and promotes faster recovery, which can take several months.
Carpal tunnel release is done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. After surgery, patients typically wear a splint or heavy bandage for one week and then begin physical therapy or a motion-exercise program.