ShareThis Page
Study: Surgery is better than splints for carpal tunnel |

Study: Surgery is better than splints for carpal tunnel

The Los Angeles Times
| Monday, September 23, 2002 12:00 a.m

Surgery appears to be more effective than splints in bringing long-term relief from carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition associated with repetitive, forceful hand motions.

The operation, which involves cutting the ligament over the wrist’s carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on a major nerve, is the fifth-most-common procedure among Medicare patients. It helps alleviate wrist pain, numbness and tingling in the thumb, index and middle fingers.

A new study, from Dr. Annette A.M. Gerritsen at the Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine at Vrije Universiteit Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is the first to compare splints, which immobilize the wrist, and surgery. Researchers randomly assigned 176 patients to two groups: 89 were to wear splints at night for at least six weeks and 87 were to undergo surgery. The patients were evaluated by physical therapists at one month, three months, six months and 12 months.

After three months, 80 percent of the surgical patients had improved, compared with 54 percent of the splint-wearers, according to the study published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. After 18 months, 90 percent of the surgery group reported improvement.

Among the splinted group, 41 percent opted for surgery within the 18 months and 94 percent of those reported improvement. Those who stuck with splinting alone had a 37 percent overall improvement rate.

In an accompanying commentary, Dr. E.F. Shaw Wiggis, of the Curtis National Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, noted that many patients may not want to expose themselves to surgical risks and potential complications. He advocated studies comparing surgery to other types of treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medications and acupuncture.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.