Carpal Tunnel Surgery When You're 70-Something
Does surgery for severe carpal tunnel disease improve pain and other symptoms in people over the age of 70? Doctors at the University of Rochester in New York asked this question in a recent study.

Pain, grip strength, and function were measured in 14 hands before and after surgery. The operation involved an open incision and carpal tunnel release (CTR). Local anesthesia was used.

The researchers found no change in grip strength before and after the operation. However, the patients were happy with the results. They had less pain and more function. These results were seen as early as six months after surgery. There was more improvement in symptom severity and ability to use 12 months after the surgery.

There's been some debate about CTR for severe disease in older adults. As this study shows, taking pressure off the median nerve in the wrist does help. Patients are satisfied with the results even though they don't get back their full strength.

In this study, no one needed any more hand surgery for this problem. The authors say that complete recovery is more likely when surgery is done early. Patients should be warned that a delay could mean some symptoms will remain after surgery, and that grip strength may not change.
Michael E. Leit, MD, et al. Patient-Reported Outcome after Carpal Tunnel Release for Advanced Disease: A Prospective and Longitudinal Assessment in Patients Older Than Age 70. In Journal of Hand Surgery. May 2004. Vol. 29A. No. 3. Pp. 379-383.