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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition causing hand pain, dysfunction, and paresthesia. Endoscopic carpal tunnel decompression offers many advantages compared with conventional open surgical decompression. However, it is equipment intensive and requires familiarity with endoscopic surgery. We review a minimally invasive technique to divide the flexor retinaculum by using a new instrument, the KnifeLight (Stryker, Kalamazoo, Michigan), which combines the advantages of the open and endoscopic methods, without the need for endoscopic set-up.


Between July 2003 and April 2005, 44 consecutive patients (26 women [59%] and 18 men [36%]), with clinical signs and symptoms, as well as electrodiagnostic findings consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome, who did not respond to non-surgical treatment, underwent the new procedure. All patients were asked about scar hypertrophy, scar tenderness, and pillar pain. The Michigan Hand Outcomes Questionnaire (MHQ) was used to determine overall hand function, activities of daily living, work performance, pain, aesthetics, and satisfaction with hand function. Other preoperative testing included grip strength and lateral pinch strength. Grip strength was measured using the Jamar hand dynamometer (Asimov Engineering Co., Los Angeles, CA); lateral key pinch was measured using the Jamar hydraulic pinch gauge. Postoperative evaluations were scheduled at 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the procedure. A small 10-mm incision was made in the wrist crease and a small opening was made at the transverse carpal ligament. The KnifeLight tool was inserted, and the ligament was incised completely. Follow-up evaluations with use of quantitative measurements of grip strength, pinch strength, and hand dexterity were performed at 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after surgery.


Fifty procedures were performed on 22 left hands (44%) and 28 right hands (56%). There were no complications related to the approach. All patients were able to use their hands immediately after the surgery. Scar tenderness and incisional pain were mild-to-moderate in the first 2 weeks, and these symptoms disappeared completely 6 months after surgery. Significant postoperative improvements in pain relief, patient satisfaction, hand function, daily activities, and work performance as assessed with the MHQ were noted at 3 and 6 months after surgery. Furthermore, significant improvement in patients' hand grip and pinch strength were observed 6 months after surgery. From a literature review, we found that the mean operation time of KnifeLight carpal tunnel release was the shortest compared with the conventional and endoscopic carpal tunnel release techniques. The median time needed for our patients to return to work was also the shortest among the different techniques.


Excellent functional outcomes and satisfaction were achieved using the KnifeLight for carpal tunnel decompression. Our minimally invasive method offers a quick, easy, and effective alternative to conventional or endoscopic carpal tunnel decompression.

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