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New Screening for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Questionnaire Helps Doctors Decide Which Patients Need Electrodiagnostic Tests
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 17, 2008 -- A brief questionnaire has been developed to help doctors screen for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Because of the high prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome, and because there are many other conditions with similar symptoms, it can be hard for doctors to decide which patients to send for electrodiagnostic tests for confirmation.

Researchers tested seven questions on 100 patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome. Three of the questions -- whether patients have tingling in at least two of the first four fingers, whether symptoms are worse at night or upon awakening, and whether shaking the hand helps -- proved to be particularly good at predicting carpal tunnel syndrome. Ninety-seven percent of the patients who answered "yes" to at least two of these three questions later showed abnormalities in their electrodiagnostic test results.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is compression of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel, which is the small tunnel made of bones and ligaments in the base of the hand.

It can be related to certain medical conditions, hereditary factors, and repetitive motions of the wrist or hands for an extended period of time.

Doctors may diagnose a patient after evaluating symptoms and performing a physical exam. The diagnosis can be confirmed with electrodiagnostic tests (nerve conduction tests).

The findings are being presented at the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine's annual meeting this week.

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