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Eur J Radiol. 2008 Jul;67(1):146-52. Epub 2007 Jul 31.

Sonography and electrodiagnosis in carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis, an analysis of the literature.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'√©lectromyographie, 146, avenue Ledru-Rollin, Paris 75011, France.


We present a review of the international literature concerning sonography for the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Analysis of the results and comparison with electrodiagnostic data provide a sensible albeit personal view on the relevance of sonography and whether it competes or is complementary to electrodiagnosis (EDX). Although EDX is considered as the gold standard for CTS diagnosis, one author chose surgical results to define CTS. The normal and threshold mean values for sonography are particularly variable from one study to another. The standard deviation (S.D.), when compared to mean values, makes normal and abnormal data overlap considerably and produces many false negatives when the specificity is high, and many false positives when the sensitivity is high. In fact, sonography is non-interpretable in only 10 to 15% of the population, and it affirms the median nerve lesion at the wrist in 55% of cases when EDX does it in more than 90% with common tests. Further more the specificity of sonography leads to a false positive diagnosis in 1 case out of 5 versus 1 out of 40 with EDX. The main conclusion is that there is no competition but rather a complementarity between sonography and EDX: sonography is certainly an efficient imaging technique but cannot replace proper EDX performed for upper limb paresthesiae. Namely, sonography can answer only one out of the 8 questions a complete EDX answer: Are sonographic images compatible with a median nerve lesion at the wrist? The answer to this solely question can be obtain with a partial EDX using a single conduction test (motor or sensitive), then duration and cost will be comparable to sonography but will be both more sensitive and specific. Finally, one must kept in mind that the final aim of all examinations in CTS is to determine the cause(s) of upper limb paresthesiae, not simply if there is a median nerve lesion at wrist or not.

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