Non-surgical treatment found to provide long-term relief for carpal tunnel syndrome

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Anindita Bose

A minimally invasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome provides complete and long-term relief to patients without the use of corticosteroids, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA; 27 November–1 December, Chicago, USA).

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of nerve entrapment neuropathy, involving the pressing or squeezing of a peripheral nerve. It occurs when the median nerves and tendons inside the carpal tunnel, a narrow and rigid passageway that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand, are being pressed or squeezed at the wrist. This results in tingling, numbness and/or weakness of the fingers and hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known form of entrapment neuropathy, affecting about 3% of the USA’s population.

Surgery is often required to treat carpal tunnel syndrome when non-surgical methods, such as physical therapy or corticosteroid injections, are insufficient. The most common and widely used surgical method involves cutting the carpal ligament to reduce pressure on the median nerve. This method requires making an incision into the wrist.

The study’s findings show that a technique called hydrodissection effectively treats nerve entrapments without the need for surgery or corticosteroids. It involves the injection of a liquid, usually saline, into a nerve to separate it from the surrounding tissue. Ultrasound guidance is used to accurately identify nerves.

Lead author Anindita Bose (University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, India) comments “previously, the studies that have been done on ultrasound-guided hydrodissection for carpal tunnel syndrome have used corticosteroids either alone or as a part of the injection, making it difficult to assess whether hydrodissection alone was beneficial, or if it was due to the effect of the steroids.”

For this randomised controlled trial, Bose and colleagues enrolled a total of 63 patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Researchers used the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire (BCTQ), the Visual Analog of Pain (VAS), and cross-sectional area ultrasounds of the median nerve to assess patient pain and symptoms before and after the procedure. The 63 patients were divided into three groups. Group one received ultrasound-guided hydrodissection with just a saline injection. Group two received ultrasound-guided hydrodissection with an injection mixture of saline and corticosteroid. Group three received just an ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection with no hydrodissection.

Follow-up was done at four weeks, 12 weeks and six months. At the four-week mark, all three groups of patients showed a reduction in pain. By the 12-week and six-month mark, both groups that received ultrasound-guided hydrodissection showed further improvement while the group that received just a corticosteroid injection reported a recurrence of symptoms and an increase in BCTQ and VAS scores.

Additionally, ultrasounds showed a significant reduction of median nerve cross-sectional area in both hydrodissection groups. Group one showed a reduction of 43%, and group two showed 46%. Group three showed only an 11% reduction.

The procedure is short, requiring only 10 to 15 minutes, which can reduce costs for treatment facilities. Anupama Tandon (University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, India) a co-author of the study notes, “it came as a pleasant surprise when this simple procedure of ultrasound-guided hydrodissection provided patients with long-term relief.” She continues, “the patients were highly satisfied, as the cost was low, no anaesthesia or hospitalisation was needed, and they could go back in an hour’s time and resume their routine work.”


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