Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that defines weakness and pain in the wrist, hands or fingers caused by long hours of repetitive movement such as that utilized by individuals typing, using computer keyboards, cash registers or other repetitive finger movement for long periods of time.
The carpal tunnel is literally a passageway located at the base of the palm and extends into the wrist for the passage and protection of nerves and tendons of the hand. Repetitive use may lead to swelling and pressure of the nerves, causing tingling, numbness and pain that may radiate up to the elbow.
Testing for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome may be accessed by physical examination accompanied by diagnostic tests such as a nerve conduction study or an electromyogram. The physician will test the feeling and strength of muscles in the fingers and hand as well as by exerting pressure on the median nerve of the wrist.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A variety of treatments may be offered for carpal tunnel syndrome, depending on severity, work occupation, and wishes of the patient. In some cases, milder symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may be relieved through taking frequent breaks to rest and exercise the hands and fingers, application of cold packs to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerves as well as wearing wrist splints or wrist braces. Wrist splints may be worn at night to help relieve tingling and numbness as well as promote healing for mild to moderate symptoms for individuals experiencing symptoms for less than 10 months.
Exercise to strengthen and stretch wrist muscles and ligaments is also recommended to help relieve pressure, improve circulation, range of motion, and pain relief.
Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, are also often prescribed to help reduce inflammation, pain and swelling caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Corticosteroids may be injected into the wrist to help relieve pain, and pressure caused by inflammation.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Carpal tunnel release surgery, also called open release surgery, involves severing the transverse carpal tunnel ligament to help reduce or relieve pressure on the nerve that extends from the palm of the hand down through the wrist. A moderate (up to 2 inch long) incision is made on the palm, exposing the ligament, which is severed to help relieve pressure. Surgery is done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery requires utilization of two very small (about 1/2 inch) incisions in the wrist and palm. An endoscope (a long, metal tube with a camera attached) is inserted into one incision and allows the surgeon to view the operating area on a monitor or screen. Using additional tools, the surgeon cuts the carpal ligament. Endoscopic surgery creates less tissue damage, faster healing and reduced scarring. Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is also performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting.
Recovery time for carpal tunnel surgery may take months and requires patients to engage in physical therapy to restore strength in the wrist.
How Much Does Carpal Tunnel Surgery Cost?
In the United States, carpal tunnel surgery may cost between $4,000 and $10,000, which includes the cost of the surgical suite, doctors' fees, anesthesia, labs, x-rays and the type of procedure performed. In some cases, carpal tunnel release surgery may be considered an elective procedure, and may not be covered by health Insurance plans in the United States.
Carpal tunnel surgery oversees may save medical travelers thousands of dollars. Carpal tunnel surgery may cost about $2,000 in India, or roughly $3,000 in Panama, including accommodations and physicians fees.
Who Performs Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Hand surgeries are typically performed by trained and certified plastic or orthopedic surgeons, though trained and experienced orthopedic and general practitioners may also perform various techniques and procedures. Always verify the training, education and certification of any surgeon, and make sure he or she belongs to reputable Orthopedic or Plastic Surgery organizations or associations in their country of origin.