We evaluated, by means of a prospective study, the results of carpal tunnel release both clinically and electrophysiologically in 188 patients with a carpal tunnel syndrome. A questionnaire was completed by patient and surgeon pre- and post-operatively (6 and 12 months after operation), when physical examination, electromyography and nerve conduction tests were also performed. Full pre- and post-operative results were available for 136 patients and 82% of the patients were satisfied with the results of the operation. Symptoms caused by median nerve compression showed the greatest improvement and no fixed patterns with regard to unsatisfactory results were found. If pain persisted in the wrist, many patients considered the operation to have been unsuccessful. Electrophysiological improvement occurred in all patients and at 12 months follow-up, median nerve conduction was normal in 21% of cases. Thus distal sensory latency remained abnormal in 79% of the patients, emphasizing the need for caution when recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed in such cases.