Does Carpal Tunnel Surgery Work?

Last Editorial Review: 8/31/2017

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.

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


"Carpal tunnel syndrome: Treatment and prognosis"