Background: Factors regarding patient willingness to undergo or avoid joint replacement have been studied; however, these factors have not been studied in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. To further understand the aspects that are important for a patient with carpal tunnel syndrome in deciding whether to have surgery, we identified factors that affect this decision in women and that are not related to Workers' Compensation status.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 282 female patients with electrophysiologically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome without a known cause who were recommended for carpal tunnel release by a single hand surgeon in a tertiary medical setting. Of those, thirty-six female patients who were not entitled to Workers' Compensation canceled the operation during the waiting period, which averaged four weeks. Thirty-three of them were surveyed with a questionnaire sent by mail, and eighteen completed surveys were reviewed at a mean follow-up of thirty-two months. Furthermore, seventy female patients who underwent carpal tunnel release were randomly sampled, and thirty-eight patients completed the survey. The operation and cancellation groups were compared with regard to the reasons for choosing or canceling surgery.
Results: The groups were similar with regard to age, sociodemographic variables, follow-up length, initial electrophysiological findings, and functional status. The highest-ranked reason for choosing surgery was symptom severity rather than fear of progression or a positive electrodiagnostic result. Those who canceled the operation rated symptom improvement during the waiting period as the leading reason for doing so, but they were also concerned about transient weakness, the financial burden, and a scar or pillar pain. Disease persistence or recurrence was the issue of most concern in both groups. At the time of the final review, the functional status was significantly improved in both groups and no significant difference between the groups was detected.
Conclusions: Women with carpal tunnel syndrome report that subjective symptom severity is the most important reason for undergoing surgery. Understanding this and other patient concerns may help physicians during patient-oriented consultation and decision-making. In particular, recommendations for carpal tunnel release on the basis of symptoms are reasonable from the perspective of the patient who has carpal tunnel syndrome without a known cause.