This study investigated the ulnar artery and the ulnar nerve and its branches in the palm to assess how frequently they may be at risk of damage during open carpal tunnel release surgery. Twenty-one formalin-embalmed cadaveric hands were dissected, and the proximity of the ulnar neurovascular bundle to two different lines of incision, the 3rd and 4th interdigital web space axis and the ring finger axis, was assessed and compared. It was found that an incision in the latter (ring finger) axis put the ulnar artery at risk in 12 of 21 specimens, whereas an incision in the former axis (3rd/4th interdigital web space) put the ulnar artery at risk in only two specimens. In 15 hands at least one structure (the ulnar artery or a branch of the ulnar nerve) was at risk in the ring finger axis compared to only seven hands in the axis of the 3rd/4th interdigital web space. We conclude that the ulnar artery and branches of the ulnar nerve are at increased risk of damage with an incision in the axis of the ring finger. The importance of using a blunt dissection technique under direct vision during surgery to identify and preserve these structures and median nerve branches is emphasized. Clin. Anat. 23:545–551, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.