Results vs Risks ofcarpal tunnel surgery


Surgery for carpal tunnel release is usually successful, but your symptoms may recur.

Overall, the likelihood of recurrence of symptoms after carpal tunnel surgery ranges from 3% to 25%.

Open surgery is successful in 75% to 90% of people.

Keyhole surgery has similar rates of success to open surgery. Recovery time (in particular return to work) is usually faster with keyhole compared to open surgery.

If you have symptoms in both hands, you may be able to have surgery on both at the same time, but bear in mind you’ll need extra help during your recovery (including toileting) because you won’t be able to manage manual tasks on your own. Be sure to discuss this with your surgeon and your family or support person before deciding on this option.


As with any medical procedure there are some potential risks. The chance of complications depends on the type of procedure you’re having and things like your general health and whether you smoke. Smoking increases the risks associated with surgery.

Poor results

Reasons some people don’t get a good result may include:

  • the original diagnosis was wrong
  • you had nerve damage before surgery
  • the ligament wasn’t properly released during surgery. This is less likely if an expert hand surgeon does the surgery
  • the nerve is compressed at another site such as your neck, as well as the carpal tunnel
  • your carpal nerve was damaged during surgery
  • an underlying medical condition was, and still is, causing the problem.


Possible complications include:

  • injury to deep structures such as nerves. Some surgeons believe the risk of injuring the median nerve or its branches is higher with keyhole surgery
  • tenderness or numbness around the scar
  • weak grip - between 10% and 30% of people lose some grip strength
  • stiffness
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • stitch abscess
  • delayed healing
  • scar tissue formation
  • chronic pain

Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.

Choosing a specialist

How to find a carpal tunnel surgeon


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.