Carpal tunnel Surgery

Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery works, view our animation below.

For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for carpal tunnel surgery and learn how your choice of surgeon and hospital affect that cost.
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To see how the surgery works, view our animation.

The basics

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Running from your upper arm and into your hand is the median nerve, which controls feeling and movement in your thumb and the first 3 fingers of your hand. On its way to your fingers and thumb, your median nerve, and 9 tendons, pass through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel.

Below the carpal tunnel are the small bones of your wrist and above is a thick ligament (the carpal ligament). If your median nerve gets squeezed between the bones and the carpal ligament, it can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in your thumb and fingers.

What causes it?

Compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel nerve can be caused by swelling or inflammation.

Risk factors for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome include female gender, genetic factors, diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, obesity, and pregnancy.

For many people, carpal tunnel symptoms fluctuate, often getting better, sometimes staying stable and getting worse for only a small number. So, not everyone will require surgery and it may be possible to avoid surgery by allowing time for the condition to heal.

What is carpal tunnel surgery?

Carpal tunnel surgery relieves the symptoms by cutting surrounding ligaments to reduce pressure on the nerve. There are 2 ways of doing this:

  • Keyhole carpal tunnel release surgery – your surgeon makes 1 or 2 small incisions and uses a thin, flexible tube with a light on the tip to see the area, and then guide a scalpel to cut the ligament. This is also known as endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.
  • Open carpal tunnel release surgery – your surgeon uses a larger incision to see the area directly and cut the ligament.

The details


Alternatives to a carpal tunnel surgery

There may be alternatives, depending on your condition.

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Types of carpal tunnel surgery

There are different ways carpal tunnel surgery can be done.

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Results vs risks of carpal tunnel surgery

The benefits and potential complications of carpal tunnel surgery.

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Choosing a specialist

How to find an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.

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Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with carpal tunnel surgery.

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Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and preparation.

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Your anaesthetic options

Anaesthesia and pain relief after surgery.

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Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of the surgery.

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Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre.

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After your procedure

Your hospital stay.

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Getting back to your normal routine and watching for problems.

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People who’ve had carpal tunnel surgery talk about their preparation, their procedure and their recovery.
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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.