Delaying Surgery · Life experiences

Delaying Surgical Treatment

Against doctor’s advice, I delayed surgical treatment for the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my left hand and, then, delayed by even more years the surgical treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my right hand. Why? Because a main nerve was involved. However low the risk is, Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery is not risk free.

The median nerve is one of three main nerves in the arm and travels from the forearm down through the carpal tunnel at the wrist and into the palm of the hand. The passageway through the wrist, called the carpal tunnel, is formed by the small wrist bones (carpals) on one side and the traverse carpal ligament (TCL) on the other. Reduction in the available space for the median nerve within the carpal tunnel causes pressure and compression on the median nerve, and this, in turn, causes the hand to feel discomfort in the form of paraesthesia (pins & needles), dull ache, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

I ignored the increasing frequency of paraesthesia in my hands. I shook my hands out more & more often. I rubbed my thumb, index and middle fingers together unintentionally, but habitually, I guess because they tingled. I started dropping things. My fingers felt clumsy when buttoning, and sometimes, I couldn’t grip to pick up small objects like paper clips and coins.

Still, I kept delaying surgical treatment to release the compression on my nerve. I tried physiotherapy hoping that it would alleviate the symptoms, but the symptoms continued to worsen. The neurologist who administered the Nerve Conduction Test stressed that the longer I waited to get the Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery done, the longer I’d be subjecting my median nerve to severe compression, and warned that when the nerve is compressed long enough, the muscle atrophies and the nerve damage becomes permanent.

By the time I finally had my first Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery on my left hand in 2014, I’d already experienced unknowingly dropping one out of three bags of groceries I was carrying in my left hand. The longer the nerve has been compressed, the longer the recovery takes. Most often, symptoms that result from compression of a nerve can be reversed. But when noticeable motor loss or severe sensory loss occurs, full recovery may not be realized. When the neurologist administered a second Nerve Conduction Test in 2018, 4 years after I had the Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery on my left hand, it showed only moderate improvement.

In my mind, waiting until it couldn’t wait any longer was the only way to go for “elective” surgeries that carried a risk of accidental laceration or severance of a main nerve resulting in poorer or complete loss of function in the hand. However “simple” the Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery is, the surgeon has to cut the transverse carpal ligament into two pieces. Care is taken to make sure that the median nerve and flexor tendons are out of the way and protected before the traverse carpal ligament is cut and pressure is taken off the median nerve. But, accidents and complications are very real possibilities.

I’m thankful that both Carpal Tunnel Release Surgeries went well. And, I am glad I waited.