BACKGROUND: Most randomized trials have shown similar results with endoscopic carpal tunnel release (ECTR) and open carpal tunnel release (OCTR); however, there are studies suggesting less postoperative pain, faster improvement in grip and pinch strength, and earlier return to work with the endoscopic technique. The goal of this study was to prospectively examine subjective and functional outcomes, satisfaction, and complications after both ECTR and OCTR in the opposite hands of the same patient, serving as their own control.
METHODS: This was a prospective, randomized study in which patients underwent surgery for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. The first carpal tunnel release was performed on the most symptomatic hand-determined by the patient. Operative approach was randomly assigned and, approximately 1 month later, the alternative technique was performed on the contralateral side. Demographic data were obtained, and functional outcomes were recorded preoperatively and postoperatively, including pain score, 2-point discrimination, Semmes-Weinstein monofilament testing, thenar strength, and overall grip strength. The carpal tunnel syndrome-functional status score and carpal tunnel syndrome-symptom severity score were recorded before surgery and at 2, 4, 8, 12, and 24 weeks postoperatively. Overall satisfaction with each technique was recorded at the conclusion of the study.
RESULTS: Currently, 25 subjects have completed final visit testing. There were no differences in pain score, 2-point discrimination, Semmes-Weinstein monofilament testing, thenar strength, or overall grip strength at any of the postoperative time points. Carpal tunnel syndrome-symptom severity score and carpal tunnel syndrome-functional status score were not significantly different between groups at any of the evaluations. Overall satisfaction, where patients recorded a number from 0 to 100, was significantly greater in the ECTR group (95.95 vs 91.60, P = 0.04). There were no complications with either technique.
DISCUSSION: This interim analysis, using the same patient as an internal control, suggests that both OCTR and ECTR are well tolerated with no differences in functional outcomes, symptom severity and functional status questionnaires, or complications. Although there were no differences between groups using our study metrics, patients still preferred the ECTR, demonstrated by significantly higher overall satisfaction scores at the conclusion of the study.
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