Economic benefit of carpal tunnel release in the medicare patient population

Zachary S. Hubbard, Tsun Yee Law, Samuel Rosas, Sarah C. Jernigan, Harvey Chim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE The epidemiology of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) has been extensively researched. However, data describing the economic burden of CTS is limited. The purpose of this study was to quantify the disease burden of CTS and determine the economic benefit of its surgical management. METHODS The authors utilized the PearlDiver database to identify the number of individuals with CTS in the Medicare patient population, and then utilized CPT codes to identify which individuals underwent surgical management. These data were used to calculate the total number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) associated with CTS. A human capital approach was employed and gross national income per capita was used to calculate the economic burden. RESULTS From 2005 to 2012 there were 1,500,603 individuals identified in the Medicare patient population with the diagnosis of CTS. Without conservative or surgical management, this results in 804,113 DALYs without age weighting and discounting, and 450,235 DALYs with age weighting and a discount rate of 3%. This amounts to between $21.8 and $39 billion in total economic burden, or $2.7-$4.8 billion per year. Surgical management of CTS has resulted in the aversion of 173,000-309,000 DALYs. This has yielded between $780 million and $1.6 billion in economic benefit per year. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release provided between $11,683 and $23,186 per patient at 100% success while open carpal tunnel release provided between $10,711 and $22,132 per patient at 100% success. The benefit-cost ratio at its most conservative is 2.7:1, yet could be as high as 6.9:1. CONCLUSIONS CTS is prevalent in the Medicare patient population, and is associated with a large amount of economic burden. The surgical management of CTS leads to a large reduction in this burden, yielding extraordinary economic benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE16
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Carpal tunnel release
  • DALY
  • Disability-adjusted life year
  • Economic benefit
  • Utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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