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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2017

Morphologic change of nerve and symptom relief are similar after mini-incision and endoscopic carpal tunnel release: a randomized trial

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2017
Won-Taek Oh, Ho-Jung Kang, Il-Hyun Koh, Jin-Young Jang, Yun-Rak Choi



The symptoms in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be ameliorated by open and endoscopic release of the transverse carpal ligament. It is unknown whether a mini-incision or endoscopic carpal tunnel release more effectively reverses the pathological changes that are observed in the median nerve in patients with CTS and these morphologic changes correlates with the subjective outcomes after carpal tunnel release. We hypothesized that (1) at 24 weeks after surgery, the subjective outcomes of mini-incision release and endoscopic release would not differ in patients with CTS; and (2) the ultrasonographic (US) morphology of the median nerve reverses similarly after mini-incision and endoscopic release; (3) the subjective outcomes correlates with these morphologic changes.


Between November 2011 and January 2013, 67 patients with CTS in their dominant wrist were randomized to either mini-incision (n = 32) or endoscopic (n = 35) release. Each patient was assessed by both the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire (BCTQ) and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) pre-operatively and 24 weeks’ post-operation. An US examination was conducted at both time points to measure the cross-sectional area (CSA) at the inlet, middle, and outlet (CSA-I, CSA-M and CSA-O) and the flattening ratio (FR) at the middle and outlet (FR-M and FR-O) of the median nerve.


The post-operative mean BCTQ and DASH scores were improved significantly from the pre-operative scores in both groups (p < 0.001). The mean CSA-I decreased and CSA-M and CSA-O increased similarly in both groups (by 3.3, 3.0, and 3.8 mm2 in the mini-incision group and 2.9, 3.1. and 2.7 mm2 in the endoscopic group. The mean FR-M/FR-O decreased similarly from 3.6/4.2 to 3.2/3.0 in the mini-incision group and 3.8/4.3 to 3.2/2.9 in the endoscopic group. There were no significant differences in the subjective outcome scores or median nerve measures between the two groups. Improvement in the BCTQ-S only was significantly correlated with changes in the CSA at the inlet.


Mini-incision and endoscopic release both similarly relieved subjective symptoms and functions along with the pathological changes in the median nerve morphology along the carpal tunnel in patients with idiopathic CTS. Symptom relief after surgical decompression seems to correlate with reduced nerve swelling at carpal inlet and reversed nerve flattening inside carpal tunnel.

Trial registration

This study was retrospectively registered in “” at Oct 18th, 2013, and the registration number was NCT01972165.
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