Surgical Techniques and Return to Work Following Carpal Tunnel Release: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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This systematic review was conducted to evaluate return to work (RTW) following minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery versus open carpal tunnel release. This study also assesses how RTW as an outcome measure was examined in previous randomized controlled trials (RCTs).


The bibliographic databases Medline, AMED and CINAHL were systematically searched. We found 15 relevant RCTs. Meta-analysis was possible only for four studies.


The result indicates that minimally invasive surgery offers earlier return to work compared to open carpal tunnel release (mean difference -7.2 days; 95% CI -10 to -4.4 days). There were remarkable inconsistencies in how return to work as an outcome measure was examined in different RCTs.


Calculating standardised mean difference in future RCTs would allow future reviews to be more inclusive of the evidence. The authors suggest more consistent approach for evaluating work-related features in future studies. We recommend that new fit note categories introduced by UK Department of Work and Pension (unfit for all work/return to modified work or work adaptations/return to normal work) would be used to identify different levels of return to work.

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