How Long Do the Best Carpal Tunnel Surgeons Study Medicine?

In order to become hand surgeons who specialize in carpal tunnel surgery, doctors first complete four years of medical school, according to the American Medical Association. After that, they complete a residency in either orthopedic, plastic or general surgery that lasts between five and seven years, states the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Next, they complete a fellowship in hand surgery that lasts for one year.

When their training is complete, doctors must also submit proof of clinical proficiency and pass a certification exam, reports the ASSH. After successfully complementing the exam, they are board-certified in hand surgery.

Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting the carpal ligament in the wrist to relieve pressure on the median nerve, explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Some doctors perform the procedure endoscopically through two 1/2-inch incisions, one on the palm of the hand and one on the wrist, an option that usually minimizes post-operative pain and leads to a fast recovery time. Other doctors perform the procedure using an open approach, which involves cutting the ligament through a 2-inch incision on the wrist. Both surgeries are typically outpatient procedures and performed under local anesthesia.

Carpal tunnel surgery sometimes results in complications, such as infection, nerve damage and pain in the area of the scar, warns the NINDS. Some patients also experience stiffness and weakness in the wrist. Postoperative physical therapy typically minimizes complications; most patients recover fully, and recurrence of symptoms is rare.