Editor's choice| Volume 44, ISSUE 3, P192-200, March 2019

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Variations in Utilization of Carpal Tunnel Release Among Medicaid Beneficiaries

Published:December 20, 2018DOI:


      To evaluate the null hypothesis that Medicaid patients receive carpal tunnel release (CTR) at the same time interval from diagnosis as do patients with Medicare Advantage or private insurance.


      We conducted a retrospective review using a database containing claims records from 2007 to 2016. The cohort consisted of patient records with a diagnosis code of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and a procedural code for CTR within 3 years of diagnosis. We stratified patients into 3 groups by insurance type (Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, and private) for an analysis of the time from diagnosis until surgery and use of preoperative electrodiagnostic testing.


      Of all patients who received CTR within 3 years of diagnosis, Medicaid patients experienced longer intervals from CTS diagnosis to CTR compared with Medicare Advantage and privately insured patients (median, 99 days vs 65 and 62 days, respectively). The Medicaid cohort was significantly less likely to receive CTR within 1 year of diagnosis compared with the Medicare Advantage cohort (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 0.54) or within 6 months of diagnosis compared with the privately insured cohort (adjusted OR = 0.61). Those in the Medicaid cohort were less likely to receive electromyography and nerve conduction studies within 9 months before surgery compared with their Medicare Advantage (adjusted OR = 0.43) and privately insured (adjusted OR = 0.41) counterparts. These effects were statistically significant after accounting for age, sex, region, and Charlson comorbidity index.


      Medicaid managed care patients experience longer times from diagnosis to surgery compared with Medicare Advantage or privately insured patients in this large administrative claims database. Similar variation exists in the use of electrodiagnostic testing based on insurance type.

      Clinical relevance

      Medicaid patients may experience barriers to CTS care, such as delays from diagnosis to surgery and reduced use of electrodiagnostic testing.

      Key words

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