Diagnostic specificity of sensory and motor nerve conduction variables in early detection of carpal tunnel syndrome

J Neurol. 1989 May;236(4):208-13. doi: 10.1007/BF00314501.


In the carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) sensory nerve conduction is more sensitive than motor conduction. However, 8%-25% of the sensory distal latencies in symptomatic hands may still be normal. A systematic study was made of the median, ulnar and radial orthodromic nerve conduction velocities (SNCV) stimulating each of the fingers separately. Four SNCVs from the median nerve, two SNCVs from the ulnar nerve and one from the radial nerve were obtained, and the ratio of the median to radial SNCV and the ratios of the median and ulnar SNCVs were estimated. The significance of these parameters in the diagnosis of the CTS was studied, and a rapid technique for the screening of nerve entrapment in the initial stages of the disease is proposed. Three hundred and seventy-five symptomatic hands were examined. Seventy-five hands showed normal distal latency, in which cases, however, the SNCV of the ring finger was always outside the normal range, while the SNCVs of the thumb, index and middle fingers were abnormal in 64%, 80% and 92% of cases respectively. The amplitudes of the sensory responses were the least sensitive of the parameters studied. Our results suggest that a study of the median nerve digital branch to the ring finger may be of value in providing an easily performed and rapid technique for screening an early median nerve entrapment at the wrist.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Time Factors