Carpal tunnel syndrome: Morphologic changes after release of the transverse carpal ligament

Jonathan A. Richman, Richard H. Gelberman, Bjorn L. Rydevik, Paul C. Hajek, Richard M. Braun, Victoria M. Gylys-Morin, Dean Berthoty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


We describe the morphologic changes that follow division of the transverse carpal ligament in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Fifteen hands in 12 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome were studied with magnetic resonance imaging before operation and for 6 weeks after operation. Eight hands were studied at 8 months after operation. Carpal arch width, anterior displacement of the carpal canal contents, and carpal canal volume were measured by use of multiplanar reformation and three-dimensional reconstruction of magnetic resonance images. There was a 24.2 ± 11.6% increase in carpal canal volume 6 weeks after carpal tunnel release (p < 0.001). This difference persisted at 8-month follow-up. There was an anterior displacement of carpal canal contents 3.5 ± 1.9 mm from its original position 6 weeks after operation (p < 0.001). This palmar displacement persisted at the 8-month follow-up. There was no statistically significant increase in carpal arch width 8 months after carpal tunnel release. We believe that division of the transverse carpal ligament restores median nerve function by increasing the volume of the carpal canal. This volumetric increase results from an anterior displacement of the newly formed transverse carpal ligament and not from a widening of the bony carpal arch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-857
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1989


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