Do I need a splint after my carpal tunnel surgery?
Putting patients in splints after surgery for hand and arm problems is common – I recommend splinting for almost all my patients after surgery – but not after carpal tunnel release!
Splinting is not necessary or recommended after carpal tunnel release.
Recently, a group of experts reviewed hundreds of research articles on carpal tunnel syndrome and found that there is no scientific evidence that splinting after surgery is beneficial for patients.
You can read the entire report here. Recommendation 8 addresses the splint issue.
This group of surgeons created a report that has been endorsed by many groups of specialized surgeons who treat carpal tunnel syndrome:
- AANS (American Association of Neurological Surgeons)
- Congress of Neurological Surgeons
- American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- AANEM (American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine)
There is no evidence that splinting improves strength, complication rates, or patient satisfaction after carpal tunnel release surgery.
What’s the big deal with splinting?
A splint is a stiff piece of fiberglass or plaster (or other hard material) placed on the palm side of the hand and wrist after surgery to keep the wrist from moving after surgery.
Splints prevent the wrist (and sometimes the fingers) from moving normally. This may worsen scar tissue formation (adhesions), create stiffness, and prevent tendons from gliding normally.
Sometimes splints are useful to protect repaired tissues, like after a bone has been fixed.
Every patient is different – some may be more uncomfortable than others after surgery and may need a short period of wrist brace (Velcro-style) use after surgery.
Most surgeons who recommend splinting after carpal tunnel release are trying to make sure their patients are comfortable. Unfortunately, this may make the wrist and fingers more stiff after the splint comes off.