Trends in carpal tunnel surgery: an online survey of members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand

J Hand Surg Am. 2015 Apr;40(4):767-71.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2014.12.046. Epub 2015 Mar 4.


Purpose: To investigate the current treatment patterns of carpal tunnel surgery by members of the American Society of Surgeons of the Hand today and to assess how several elements of practice vary by surgeon location and experience.

Methods: An online survey consisting of 10 questions was sent electronically to members of the American Society of Surgeons of the Hand (N = 2,413). A brief description of the study and a link were sent to participants by the investigators. Results were anonymously uploaded to an online spreadsheet.

Results: 716 hand surgeons (30%) responded to the survey. Surgeons were nearly equally represented by region. A wide variation in surgeon experience was observed. A majority (65%) performed most of their surgery at an outpatient surgical center. Preoperative electrodiagnostic testing was used, at least occasionally, by 90% of surgeons. Approximately one-half did not administer preoperative antibiotics at the time of surgery. Intravenous sedation with local anesthesia was the most common practice (43%), followed by Bier block (18%). A mini-open incision was most commonly used (50%). A minority reported using an orthosis postoperatively (29%), and they rarely prescribed a course of postoperative therapy (12%). Postoperative pain management was variable, with hydrocodone and derivatives given most commonly (61%). International practitioners were much less likely to operate in an outpatient surgical center (45%) or use antibiotics (13%). Younger surgeons were more likely to use electrodiagnostic testing (96%) compared with the mean (90%).

Conclusions: When compared with several previous similar studies, we noted a trend toward increased use of electrodiagnostic testing and decreased use of postoperative therapy and immobilization.

Type of study/level of evidence: Economic and decision analysis V.

Keywords: Carpal tunnel syndrome; antibiotics; electrodiagnostics; pain management; postoperative therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / rehabilitation
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / surgery*
  • Electrodiagnosis / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Immobilization
  • Orthopedic Procedures / trends*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / methods*