How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

Orthopaedic & Spine Center on the Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Call (797) 596-1900 for a consultation with Dr Boyd Haynes at OSC

A couple of days ago, I discussed what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is (see the post here), who is the most likely to develop this condition and what puts others at risk for this syndrome.  Today, I will be discussing how CTS is diagnosed by a specialist and the variety of ways they confirm their diagnosis.

So if you are experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, what should you do next?

It is important to get a diagnosis and confirm it truly is CTS and not other conditions that can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome.  It is also important to remember that CTS can permanently damage the medial nerve of the hand, causing irreparable damage, resulting in lifelong numbness.

Your physician will conduct a complete history and physical, ask about your symptoms, do a physical examination of the fingers, palm and wrist, and will look for swelling, discoloration or other obvious signs of trauma. Your specialist will ask you to hold your wrists in a particular way or perform certain movement tests to see if your symptoms can be replicated or made worse. Your specialist may also order lab tests to rule out diabetes or hypothyroidism, which can be an underlying cause for carpal tunnel syndrome

Sometimes, your physician will order a more intensive test to confirm a suspected diagnosis of CTS.  In a nerve conduction study, electrodes are placed on the hand and wrist and small electric shocks are used to see how quickly the nerves are relaying information.  Electromyography involves sticking a small needle into the muscle and measuring nerve activity.  While highly reliable and informative, these two tests are slightly uncomfortable for the patient.  Once done, they do not need to be repeated.  Dr. Boyd Haynes, of Orthopaedic & Spine Center, usually prefers doing these tests.  Ultrasound can also be used to detect if the median nerve is being compromised.  MRI has been found to be of little use in diagnosing CTS, but it can clearly show the anatomy of the hand and wrist to the physician, if there is a concern about a mechanical problem. Dr. Haynes had a transcriptionist he operated on with his endoscopic technique and she was able to return to an 8 hr. typing job 4 days later!!!  She had her other hand done 3 weeks later as well.

In my next blog posting, I will detail for you how Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is treated.