Effectiveness of surgical versus conservative treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review, meta-analysis and qualitative analysis

Diony Klokkari, Ioannis Mamais
Hong Kong Physiotherapy Journal 2018, 38 (2): 91-114

Background: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most common entrapment neuropathy of the upper limb. Treatment options include physiotherapy, splinting, steroid injections or surgery.

Objective: To compare the effectiveness of surgical versus conservative treatment for CTS for symptom and functional improvement and improvement of neurophysiological parameters.

Methods: Systematic searches of PubMed and EBSCO host were conducted to identify the studies published between 1990 and 2016, comparing any surgical treatment to any conservative treatment. Participants were adults with a diagnosis of CTS, with symptom duration ranging from 8 months to 3 years. A meta-analysis and a qualitative analysis were conducted to summarize the results of the included studies and establish any agreement between the two.

Results: A total of 15 studies were included in the study and 10 were included in the meta-analysis, involving 1787 wrists. The qualitative and quantitative analyses were consistent with the results of both indicating that surgical treatment leads to a greater improvement of symptoms at six months (mean difference: 0.52, 95%CI 0.27 to 0.78) and a greater improvement of neurophysiological parameters [distal motor latency (mean difference: 0.31, 95%CI 0.06 to 0.56), sensory nerve conduction velocity (mean difference: 3.71 m/s, 95%CI 1.94 to 5.49)]. At 3 months and 12 months, the results were not significant in favor of surgery or conservative treatment.

Conclusion: Conservative treatment for CTS should be preferred for mild and short-term CTS. Surgery is more effective than conservative in CTS, and should be considered in persisting symptoms, taking into account the complications, which are more severe after surgery. Further research should focus on the field of manual therapy and compare it to surgical treatment for CTS.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"