Traditional surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome was an open surgery that required a two-inch-long incision in the wrist or palm of the hand. The newer, advanced endoscopic procedure requires a much smaller incision. Both procedures require cutting the ligament that is pressing on the median nerve.
Many individuals prefer the endoscopic carpal tunnel release technique since it has a faster healing time as well as other benefits. Individuals who have the endoscopic surgery have less soft-tissue damage, better grip-strength following surgery, and can return to work faster. People who use a wheelchair or walker may prefer the minimally invasive endoscopic surgery since it doesn’t require a large incision in the hand. Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning individuals can return home the same day.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery
For the newer, less invasive endoscopic surgery, a surgeon will make one or two small incisions in the palm of the hand or wrist.
In the single-portal technique, one incision is used to insert an endoscope into the wrist. The endoscope, a tiny tube with a camera attached, allows a surgeon to see inside the carpal tunnel and view the tendons, ligaments, and nerve on a monitor. The surgeon will cut the carpal ligament with a small knife inserted through the same tube. Some surgeons will use ultrasound instead to guide them instead.
In a two-portal technique, one tiny incision is used to insert the endoscope and another tiny cut is used to insert the cutting tool through another small tube. The surgeon will cut the carpal ligament to release the pressure on the median nerve that is creating the carpal tunnel symptoms.
Most people who undergo endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery find their painful symptoms are relieved right away. The transverse carpal ligament grows back in a few months, but now allows more room for the median nerve. Full range of motion and strength is usually regained within four weeks.
Reviewed by: Galal Elsayed, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: October 2023