Complications & risks


Any surgical procedure has an element of risk attached to it and occasionally things do not turn out as well as expected. Fortunately with carpal tunnel release the risks are small and the outcomes usually very good. (90-95%)

Failure to improve after surgery is about 5-10%.

Recurrence of symptoms after successful surgery is rare, reported rates vary from 1/200-1/500 and can occur from 6 months to 20 years after surgery. Recurrent symptoms can be treated by re-operation but the results are not predictably good. Serious infection is extremely rare, less than 1/1000, but you must take care to keep the dressings clean and dry. If you experience a lot of pain in the hand, swelling of the fingers, high fever or flu-like symptoms you should immediately seek advice. Minor, superficial infections may require antibiotics.

Damage to the nerve during the operation, causing numbness in the fingers or weakness of the thumb muscle is also extremely rare, less than 1/1000.

Scar tenderness can persist for several months but usually settles down in time.

Some who do are not progressing satisfactorily because of persistent post-op pain, stiffness or finger swelling may require physiotherapy but this is unusual.

A rare complication of injury to the hand including surgery is ‘chronic regional pain syndrome’ the hand is disproportionately painful and stiff with some swelling. You should seek advice promptly if you experience such symptoms. This can last for many months and is difficult to treat.