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Muscle Nerve. 2005 Dec;32(6):815-7.

Cold elbow syndrome: spurious slowing of ulnar nerve conduction velocity.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, Washington DC 20307, USA. Mark.Landau@NA.AMEDD.ARMY.MIL


Low temperature decreases nerve conduction velocity (NCV). The across-elbow segment of the ulnar nerve is superficial and may be particularly susceptible to decreased temperature. We evaluated patients without clinical ulnar neuropathy at the elbow (UNE) but with isolated slowing of the across-elbow ulnar NCV (normal group), and patients with clinical and electrodiagnostic findings of UNE (UNE group). All subjects had ulnar motor nerve studies completed before and after warming. The mean across-elbow NCV was 43.4 m/s and 48.6 m/s (P < 0.0001) in the normal group, and 37.4 m/s and 37.7 m/s (P = 0.90) in the UNE group, before and after warming, respectively. There was no change in the forearm segment NCV in either group. Seventeen of 32 subjects in the normal group had completely normal studies after warming. No patients with UNE developed normal across-elbow NCV with warming. Low temperature slows across-elbow ulnar NCV in normal subjects without impact on the forearm segment. Warming of the elbow improves across-elbow ulnar NCV in normals, but does not reverse the abnormalities in patients with UNE. Elbow warming should become a routine part of ulnar nerve conduction studies, especially when there is isolated conduction slowing in the across-elbow segment.

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