Background: The Internet has become a popular source of medical information for patients. Authors of health-related web pages are not required to adhere to any standard for medical content or accuracy. The goal of the present study was to assess the type, quality, and reliability of information about carpal tunnel syndrome that is available on the Internet.
Methods: The search phrase "carpal tunnel syndrome" was entered into five commonly used World Wide Web search engines. The search results then were given as an ordered list of universal resource locators, or web-site addresses. The top (first) fifty web sites from each of the five searches were combined to create a master roster of 250 web-site addresses. These web sites then were evaluated for authorship and content, and an informational value score ranging from 0 to 100 points was assigned to each.
Results: Thirty-three percent of the sites sold commercial products for the evaluation or treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. An additional 30 percent were commercial web sites that did not sell products. Only 23 percent of the sites were authored by a physician or an academic organization. Fewer than half of the sites offered conventional information. Twenty-three percent of the sites offered unconventional or misleading information. The mean informational value of the web sites was 28.4 of a possible 100 points.
Conclusions: The information about carpal tunnel syndrome on the Internet is of limited quality and poor informational value. The public and the medical communities need to be aware of these limitations so that the quality of medical information available on the World Wide Web can be improved.