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Hand (N Y). 2010 Dec;5(4):354-60. doi: 10.1007/s11552-010-9263-y. Epub 2010 Mar 23.

Is there Light at the End of the Tunnel? Controversies in the Diagnosis and Management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common disorder responsible for considerable patient suffering and cost to health services. Despite extensive research, controversies still exist with regards to best practice in diagnosis, treatment, and service provision. Current best practise would support the use of history, examination and electro-diagnostic studies. The role for ultrasound scanning in diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is yet to be proven. It appears magnetic resonance image scanning has a role where a rare cause for carpal tunnel syndrome may be suspected and also in the detailed reconstruction of the anatomy to aid endoscopic procedures. Treatment options can be surgical or non-surgical and patient choice will dictate the decision. For non-surgical interventions many options have been trialled but until now only steroid use, acupuncture, and splinting have shown discernable benefits. Open surgical decompression of the carpal tunnel appears to be more simple and cost-effective than minimally invasive interventions. For those patients who reject surgery, splinting, acupuncture, and steroid injection can play a role. Recent work looking at different service delivery options has shown some positive results in terms of decreasing patient waiting time for definitive treatment. However, no formal cost-effectiveness analysis has been published and concerns exist about the impact of a stream-lined service on surgical training. In this review, we look at the different diagnostic and treatment options for managing carpal tunnel syndrome. We then consider the different service delivery options and finally the cost-effectiveness evidence.


Carpal tunnel syndrome; Cost-effectiveness; Electro-diagnostic studies; Non-operative treatment endoscopic surgery

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