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Neurology. 2002 Jun 11;58(11):1597-602.

MR nerve imaging in a prospective cohort of patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, 1959 E Pacific, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.



To evaluate the reliability and diagnostic accuracy of high-resolution MRI of the median nerve in a prospectively assembled cohort of subjects with clinically suspected carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).


The authors prospectively identified 120 subjects with clinically suspected CTS from five Seattle-area clinics. All subjects completed a hand-pain diagram and underwent a standardized nerve conduction study (NCS). The reference standard for determining CTS status was a classic or probable hand pain diagram and NCS with a difference >0.3 ms between the 8-cm median and ulnar peak latencies. Readers graded multiple imaging parameters of the MRI on four-point scales. The authors also performed quantitative measurements of both the median nerve and carpal tunnel cross-sectional areas. NCS and MRI were interpreted without knowledge of the other study or the hand pain diagram.


Intrareader reliability was substantial to near perfect (kappa = 0.76 to 0.88). Interreader agreement was lower but still substantial (kappa = 0.60 to 0.67). Sensitivity of MRI was greatest for the overall impression of the images (96%) followed by increased median nerve signal (91%); however, specificities were low (33 to 38%). The length of abnormal signal on T2-weighted images was significantly correlated with nerve conduction latency, and median nerve area was larger at the distal radioulnar joint (15.8 vs 11.8 mm(2)) in patients with CTS. A logistic regression model combining these two MR variables had a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.85.


The reliability of MRI is high but the diagnostic accuracy is only moderate compared with a research-definition reference standard.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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