The sensory recovery was monitored for up to 1 year after decompression of the median nerve in 69 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Special attention was paid to the rate of recovery, the importance of constant or intermittent numbness or paraesthesiae preoperatively and the influence of gender. Most patients with numbness/paraesthesiae and those with abnormal two-point discrimination recovered within 10 days. Perception of touch and vibration recovered within 3 weeks in most patients but those with abnormal nerve conduction/sensory amplitude recovered slowly during follow-up. After 1 year patients with intermittent preoperative symptoms were significantly more likely to achieve normal nerve conduction and perception of touch. Women were more likely to achieve normal nerve conduction and perception of touch. A comparison of recovery between matched men and women with identical preoperative status showed no significant difference. The results indicate the importance of early treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.