Does Carpal Tunnel Surgery Work?

  • Medical Author:
    Standiford Helm II, MD

    Dr. Helm has been practicing interventional pain management since 1982. Dr. Helm is a diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology with subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine and of the American Board of Pain Medicine. Dr. Helm is a Fellow of Interventional Pain Practice (FIPP), the only certifying agency which tests the ability to perform interventional pain procedures. Dr. Helm is also an examiner for FIPP.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

I have carpal tunnel in both my hands. The pain is almost constant, the nights are the worst. I am thinking about having surgery for this condition but I have also heard that it doesn't necessarily work. Is that true?

Doctor's response

No surgical therapy works 100% of the time. Surgical failures can occur; despite the appropriate surgery being done on the appropriate patient, by a highly skilled surgeon with no surgery complications experienced; less than ideal results sometimes just happen. This is true for all surgeries, not just carpal tunnel surgery. The time to have carpal tunnel surgery is when a patient:

  • has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome,
  • has tried conservative therapy without success,
  • has ongoing pain and functional limitation, which is sufficient for the patient to be willing to undergo surgery, and
  • the patient has confidence in his/her surgeon.

The problem is that statistics don't apply to individual medical procedures. A given surgery may have a successful outcome 95% of the time, but if your personal outcome is bad, then that is, for you, a 100% failure rate.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


"Carpal tunnel syndrome: Treatment and prognosis"

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Reviewed on 8/31/2017

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