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Use of Ultrasound in Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Cost-Effective Solution to Reduce Delays in Surgical Care

Published:September 29, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhsa.2021.08.008

      Purpose

      Currently, electrodiagnostic testing, which comprises electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS), is the most commonly used method for confirming the clinical diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Electromyogram and NCS can be costly, can require multiple visits, may induce anxiety, and may be painful for patients. The purpose of this study was to determine whether replacing EMG/NCS with ultrasound (US), performed by the treating surgeon, to diagnose CTS decreases time to surgery and the number of office visits.

      Methods

      We retrospectively reviewed a database that consisted of patients who presented to our department with numbness and/or tingling in the hand(s). We assessed the patients’ histories for any subsequent carpal tunnel release, dates of diagnosis, dates of surgery, the number of CTS-related medical visits, and diagnostic methods employed. A fellowship-trained hand surgeon performed US examination, and the patients were referred for EMG/NCS testing. We collected data prior to surgery using the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire to evaluate symptom severity scale and functional status scale scores. We performed linear regression to assess differences in the time to surgery and the number of medical visits prior to carpal tunnel release.

      Results

      Patients who had the diagnosis confirmed by the surgeon using US (n = 34) underwent surgical intervention 3–4 weeks earlier, with 1.8 fewer medical visits on average than the number of medical visits for those who had their diagnosis confirmed using EMG/NCS (n = 98).

      Conclusions

      If a confirmatory method for the diagnosis of CTS is required or desired by the treating surgeon, surgeon-conducted US might have an impact on the efficiency of care for patients with CTS.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Diagnostic IV.

      Key words

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