Background: Leprosy causes nerve damage which may result in nerve function impairment and disability. Decompressive surgery is used for treating nerve damage, although the effect is uncertain. Objectives: To assess the effects of decompressive surgery on nerve damage in leprosy. Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Trials Register (November 2007), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2007), MEDLINE (from January 1950 to November 2007), EMBASE (from January 1980 to November 2007), AMED (from January 1985 to November 2007), CINAHL (from January 1982 to November 2007) and LILACS (from January 1982 to November 2007) in November 2007. We checked reference lists of the studies identified, the Current Controlled Trials Register (, conference proceedings and contacted trial authors. Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials of decompressive surgery for nerve damage in leprosy. Data collection and analysis: The primary outcome was improvement in sensory and motor nerve function after one year. Secondary outcomes were improvement in nerve function after two years, change in nerve pain and tenderness, and adverse events. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. We contacted trial authors for additional information. We collected adverse effects information from the trials and non-randomised studies. Main results: We included two randomised controlled trials involving 88 people. The trials examined the added benefit of surgery over prednisolone for treatment of nerve damage of less than six months duration. After two years follow-up there was no significant difference in nerve function improvement between people treated with surgery plus prednisolone or with prednisolone alone. Adverse effects of decompressive surgery were not adequately described. Authors' conclusions: Decompressive surgery is used for treating nerve damage in leprosy but evidence from randomised controlled trials does not show a significant added benefit of surgery over steroid treatment alone. Well-designed randomised controlled trials are needed to establish the effectiveness of the combination of surgery and medical treatment compared to medical treatment alone.