Using Ultrasounds to Detect Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

According to a recent article published in the the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, ultrasound technology is helpful at determining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition doctors classify as a “repetitive strain injury,” meaning that carpal tunnel does not just happen after one injury, but as the result of repeated overuse of the tendons surrounding the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve controls the movement and feelings in the wrist, up through the palms and fingers and when this nerve experiences long-term pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome can occur.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include: definitive wrist pain spreading into the arm, tingling or numb feeling in the fingers and palm, inability to determine temperature in the fingers, and loss of movement in the wrist, palm and fingers. If left untreated, carpal tunnel can cause the muscles in the hand, especially the thumb, to waste away and become less usable. Carpal tunnel syndrome is seen most often in those that work around computers, avid video game players, or those in assembly line employment: sewing, cleaning or packaging.

The traditional way to determine carpal tunnel treatment was through a physical examination called a Tinel test, in which the treating physician applies slight pressure to the median nerve, usually causing a shock of pain through the patient’s hand. There is also the Phalen test where the patient is asked to hold the back of the hands together with arms out for upwards of 2 minutes. If these tests proved to be inconclusive, most doctors will use electrodiagnostic tests by inserting electric shock into the nerve and measuring the speed in which the signal is transmitted. This process begins by inserting a fine needle into the muscle surrounding the median nerve and applying electrodes into the muscle to determine the degree of damage.

Recently however, orthopedic doctors have found that ultrasound technology may be more effective in determining if a patient has carpal tunnel syndrome. Ultrasounds are used to show if the median nerve is experiencing any impairment as a result of arthritis, muscle tears, or tendonitis.  Ultrasound, especially modern digital ultrasounds, had high sensitivity to carpel tunnel in laboratory studies in comparison to the electrodiagnostic testing. In summary “ultrasound was accurate in 89% of cases and electrodiagnostic testing was accurate in 86% of cases” highlighting that the simpler and less expensive ultrasound technology can determine carpal tunnel syndrome.

Ultrasounds use the power of sound waves in order to produce images. Without any invasive properties, shots or radiation, ultrasounds are safe and comfortable to patients in comparison to needles and electric shocks and they offer invaluable information .

At Doctors Imaging in Metairie, we use the Phillips digital ultrasound, a state of the art machine that creates clear and concise images for doctors and can help your hand doctor to determine whether medication, physical therapy or surgery is necessary for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. For more information, look through our Ultrasound Page or call us at 504-883-8111 to schedule your ultrasound appointment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *