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Burning Pain After Carpal Tunnel Surgery

by Lyndon Langley
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Burning Pain After Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Burning Pain After Carpal Tunnel Surgery

If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and you’re scheduled for a surgical procedure to treat your symptoms, there’s no need to fear the worst case scenario — a full recovery without any complications. Less than one percent of patients who undergo carpal tunnel release surgery have an unexpected postoperative problem that can cause long-term discomfort. One such condition is median nerve injury, which usually happens during the opening of the carpal canal. This type of injury typically resolves within three months, but it may last longer if left untreated. Fortunately, most cases are minor and resolve quickly, leaving behind only scar tissue. If not treated properly, however, these scars will eventually become tender and painful. The good news is that doctors can perform certain tests to determine whether or not the patient has suffered from a serious injury to the median nerve. Patients should immediately report any severe pain following their operation.
While the majority of injuries occur during the actual surgical procedure, some happen after the wound heals and before the doctor even gives his/her first post-op instruction. In order to prevent this sort of injury, surgeons must be vigilant about protecting the nerves during surgery. They also must ensure that proper care is taken to protect the delicate nerve after the procedure has concluded. In general, physicians use a wide variety of techniques during open carpal tunnel release procedures, including standard incisions, mini-incisions, the Veress needle technique, subcutaneous tunnels and endoscopy. Of all these methods, endoscopy seems to carry the highest risk of injuring the median nerve. While this method does provide access to the wrist area, it also compromises the integrity of the tendon sheath surrounding the median nerve. As a result, patients may experience burning, itching or numbness sensations following the procedure. These problems tend to go away on their own over time; however, they may require medical attention if they persist.
Burning Pain After Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
Most people don’t consider the possibility of having sustained a nerve injury until several weeks or months after their surgery. For example, when I was recovering at home after my open carpal tunnel release, I noticed that my right thumb didn’t feel quite normal, but I figured that was because I had recently started using a splint. Then, a few days later, I began experiencing intense burning pain along the side of my palm near the base of my thumb. Although I hadn’t experienced anything similar before, I assumed that perhaps I’d injured my skin somehow while putting on the splint. When I went back to see my surgeon, he told me that I likely had developed a pressure sore on my hand due to the immobility caused by the splint. He said that the pressure would probably get better as the sore healed, so I just needed to keep cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide solution. Unfortunately, the burn turned out to be much worse than what my doctor anticipated, and it didn’t improve at all. After seeing two other doctors, I learned that I had sustained a very rare instance of median nerve damage. Thankfully, though, the pain subsided within a month or two, and now I’m fine. But it could have gone badly.
According to the American Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA), less than one percent of patients undergoing regional anesthesia develop major nerve injury symptoms. Even though the incidence rate is low, doctors still recommend keeping a close watch on patients who have undergone this kind of surgery. They should inform them about potential risks and make sure they understand how to recognize signs of nerve injury. Nerve injuries can include tingling, numbness, weakness, paralysis, drooping eyelids and loss of reflexes. In addition, ASRA states that patients should be aware of possible causes of nerve injury, such as medication reactions, infection, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and trauma. Doctors should also explain to patients that they might experience increased sensitivity to light touch and pinprick stimuli, which is known as dysesthesias. Dysesthesias are temporary changes in sensation that usually disappear within hours or a day. However, if they persist beyond 24 hours, then the physician should be contacted immediately.
In addition, patients should know that they can help themselves heal faster and recover quicker. First off, they shouldn’t try to move their hands too soon after the surgery. Instead, they should rest their wrists and fingers completely for a couple of days, and then gradually resume activities such as washing dishes, doing housework, eating, typing and writing. Also, if they notice any tingling, numbness or sharp pains, they should consult their doctor immediately. Finally, patients should avoid strenuous activity for at least four weeks.
Median nerve damage symptoms vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some sufferers may experience milder symptoms, such as itching or burning, while others may develop more severe ones, such as paralysis. Fortunately, nerve injuries do generally go away within three months, although those who suffer from chronic issues may want to seek further treatment.

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