A Minimally Invasive Approach for Carpal Tunnel
Michelle Carr is a hairstylist and owner of the Mane-iac Barber Shop in Aberdeen, New Jersey. A few years ago, at age 45, she started to experience a lot of pain in her hands. “It was hard to drive and I had a lot of trouble sleeping because my hands were numb,” she says.
Michelle tried using wrist splints, but they didn’t relieve her pain. “At first, I didn’t know what it was, until I started to talk to doctors about it.” Eventually, Michelle was referred to a plastic surgery group in Holmdel, New Jersey, where a nerve conduction study confirmed that her median nerve was not transmitting signals to her hand at the correct speed—a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgeon Said Samra, M.D., explained that traditional corrective surgery, which involves a long incision in the palm, would require a six-week recuperation.
“I absolutely could not be away from my business that long,” Michelle says.
Fortunately, the doctor was able to recommend another surgeon in the same practice—his son, Salem Samra, M.D.—who could perform the surgery with a minimally invasive approach.
Dr. Salem Samra used the surgical technique known as endoscopic carpal tunnel release for Michelle’s left hand. “I make a 2-cm incision on the wrist and insert a thin tube with an endoscopic camera and a blade,” he says. He can see the carpal tunnel from inside and cut the affected ligament from underneath.
By releasing that tough band of tissue, the median nerve is freed from compression and signals can pass to the thumb and fingers as they should. Eventually, scar tissue reconnects the ligament.
“The skin of the wrist is much less sensitive than the skin of the palm. A small incision in the wrist to access the carpal tunnel and open it results in less pain and less blood loss, and healing time is much shorter,” Dr. Salem Samra says. “This is especially important for someone like Michelle, who needed to get back to work quickly.”
The 20-minute surgical procedure was performed at Bayshore Medical Center, and Michelle left the hospital the same day with a soft wrap bandage. “I went back to work a week later,” she says.
Michelle experienced such relief from the surgery on her left hand in December 2013, that she returned to Dr. Salem Samra for the same procedure on her right hand in April 2015.
“Even if I didn’t cut hair I would do it, because losing feeling at night was a problem,” Michelle says.
Someone else was convinced of the effectiveness of the technique: Dr. Said Samra had his son perform the endoscopic surgery on him. He was back performing surgery after just one week.
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