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Electrodiagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Which Transcarpal Conduction Technique Is Best?

Chang, Ming-Hong; Liao, Yi-Chu; Lee, Yi-Chung; Hsieh, Peiyuan F.; Liu, Lu-Han

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: October 2009 - Volume 26 - Issue 5 - p 366-371
doi: 10.1097/WNP.0b013e3181baaafe
Original Article

Transcarpal conduction techniques are commonly used to be supplementary techniques to distal sensory and motor latencies (DSL and DML) in the electrodiagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). However, which transcarpal conduction techniques, or combination of techniques, are the most sensitive for the electrodiagnosis of CTS is unknown. To determine which transcarpal conduction technique is the most sensitive for the electrodiagnosis of CTS, we prospectively conduct this study. Study subjects were 100 patients with CTS and 50 controls. In addition to DSL and DML determinations, all subjects were evaluated using four transcarpal conduction techniques. These were (1) median wrist-palm sensory conduction time (W-Psen CT); (2) median wrist-palm mixed nerve conduction time (W-Pmix CT); (3) the difference of conduction time across wrist between median and ulnar nerves (W-Pmix M-U CT); and (4) median wrist-palm motor conduction velocity (W-Pmot CV). The sensitivities and specificities of these tests were compared. Ninety patients had one or more electrophysiologic abnormalities. The DSL and DML diagnostic sensitivities were 74% and 72%, respectively. Better sensitivities were obtained with W-Psen CT (82%), W-Pmot CV (81%), W-Pmix CT (78%), and W-Pmix M-U CT (79%). Compared between four transcarpal conduction techniques, there was no significant difference in sensitivity. Of 26 patients with CTS with normal DSL, additional electrophysiologic abnormalities were revealed with W-Psen CT (30.7%), W-Pmot CV (53.8%), W-Pmix CT (30.7%), or W-Pmix M-U CT (38.5%). When W-Pmot CV was compared with W-Psen CT and W-Pmot CV versus W-Pmix CT, calculated probabilities (P = 0.07) showed a clear trend toward statistical significance. Furthermore, of 20 patients with normal DSL and DML, five patients had abnormality for W-Psen CT, eight for W-Pmot CV, four for W-Pmix CT, and six for W-Pmix M-U CT. On the basis of the results, we concluded that the most simple and reliable transcarpal conduction for electrodiagnosis of CTS was W-Psen CT. The most sensitive technique was W-Pmot CV in subjects with normal DSL or with normal DSL and DML. Evaluation of transcarpal motor conduction affords a useful supplementary technique to W-Psen CT.

From the Section of Neurology, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Taichung; and Department of Neurology, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, China.

This study was supported by grants NSC 96-2414-B-075A-003 and 97-2414-B-075A-001 from the National Science Council, Taiwan, and TCVGH-973405C from Taichung Veterans General Hospital (to M.-H.C.).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Ming-Hong Chang, M.D., Section of Neurology, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, No. 160, Chung-Kang Road, Section 3 Taichung, Taiwan 40705, China; e-mail:

Copyright © 2009 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society