Inappropriate Preoperative Gabapentinoid Use Among Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

J Hand Surg Am. 2020 Aug;45(8):677-689.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2020.04.011. Epub 2020 May 30.


Purpose: Gabapentinoids are commonly prescribed for the treatment of neuropathic pain but are not recommended for the primary treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). We sought (1) to investigate the preoperative use of gabapentinoids for the treatment of CTS and (2) to determine whether preoperative exposure is associated with persistent gabapentinoid and opioid use after carpal tunnel release.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study using IBM MarketScan Research Databases (2010-2017) of patients who did not fill a gabapentinoid or opioid prescription within 3 months of a new CTS diagnosis undergoing surgical release. Our primary outcomes included preoperative gabapentinoid prescription fills associated with CTS and persistent prescription fills of gabapentinoids and opioids at 91 to 180 days after surgery. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association between patient-level factors and persistent gabapentinoid and opioid use.

Results: Of the 56,593 patients without a previous gabapentinoid or opioid prescription prior to diagnosis of CTS, 3,474 patients (6%) filled a gabapentinoid prescription before carpal tunnel release. Overall, 835 patients (24% of the preoperative users) continued to fill gabapentinoid prescriptions at 91 to 180 days after surgery. Of the preoperative gabapentinoid users, 20% (702 patients) continued to fill opioid prescriptions at 91 to 80 days after release. After adjusting for patient characteristics, preoperative gabapentinoid use was associated with increased odds of persistent postoperative gabapentinoid use (preoperative gabapentinoid, 22% adjusted probability; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 20.3%-23.0%, no preoperative gabapentinoid use, 1%; 95% CI, 1.2%-1.4%) and persistent postoperative opioid use (preoperative gabapentinoid, 18% adjusted probability; 95% CI, 17%-20%), no preoperative gabapentinoid, 9%; 95% CI, 8.6%-9.1%).

Conclusions: Despite a lack of evidence to support the use of gabapentinoids for CTS, 6% of patients are prescribed a gabapentinoid prior to surgery, and prolonged use is common. Given the effectiveness of surgical release and the risks associated with gabapentinoids, greater attention is needed to ensure that gabapentinoids are prescribed appropriately, avoided when possible, and stopped after surgery.

Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic II.

Keywords: Carpal tunnel syndrome; gabapentinoids; opioids.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid