The main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is pathological changes in the flexor synovium, which is a known cause of pressure elevation in the carpal tunnel. The importance of the transverse carpal ligament (TCL) in the pathogenesis of CTS has hitherto been overlooked. However, the TCL significantly affects carpal biomechanics; the TCL is known to affect the carpal bone to a greater extent when intra carpal tunnel pressure is high. In addition, the effect of TCL properties on the progression course of idiopathic CTS is unknown.
Therefore, we hypothesized that TCL thickness, measured using ultrasonography, would influence the results of conservative treatment for CTS patients with mild to moderate symptoms. We aimed to investigate the relationship between the ultrasound-measured TCL thickness and idiopathic carpal tunnel conservative treatment surgery rate.
Materials and Methods
We analyzed the wrists of 127 patients with mild to moderate symptoms of CTS. The patients were diagnosed on the basis of electrophysiological assessment outcomes, median nerve cross-sectional area in the carpal tunnel, and clinical symptoms. The Boston carpal tunnel questionnaire score was also measured. Patients with a TCL thinner than 1.5 mm were classified into group A (n = 62), and those with a TCL thicker than 1.5 mm were classified into group B (n = 65). Patients with severe symptoms or other diseases were excluded. The patients were initially treated with night splinting after diagnosis. If symptoms were not ameliorated, steroid injection and surgical treatment were performed consecutively. The procedures were determined by a single surgeon.
The mean TCL thickness was 1.51 mm: 0.98 mm in group A and 2.28 mm in group B. The percentages of patients who underwent surgery were 43.0% in group A and 67.7% in group B. Group B was 1.77 times more likely to have surgery, and the interval between diagnosis and surgery and/or steroid injection was shorter. The TCL thickness in group B was also related to cross-sectional area and symptom duration.
Transverse carpal ligament thickness affects disease progression and may affect treatment efficacy, depending on the treatment method. Transverse carpal ligament thickness may be a criterion for deciding between surgical and conservative treatments based on a thickness threshold of 1.5 mm.