Object. Recently developed novel MR protocols called MR neurography, which feature conspicuity for nerve, have been shown to demonstrate signal change and altered median nerve configuration in patients with median nerve compression. The postoperative course following median nerve decompression can be problematic, with persistent symptoms and abnormal results on electrophysiological studies for some months, despite successful surgical decompression. The authors undertook a prospective study in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, correlating the clinical, electrophysiological, and MR neurography findings before and 3 months after surgery.
Methods. Thirty patients and eight control volunteers were recruited to the study. The MR neurography consisted of axial and sagittal images (TR = 2000 msec, TE = 60 msec) obtained using a temporomandibular surface coil, fat saturation, and flow suppression. Maximum intensity projection images were used to follow the median nerve through the carpal tunnel in the sagittal plane.
Magnetic resonance neurography in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome demonstrated proximal swelling (p < 0.001) and high signal change in the nerve, together with increased flattening ratios (p < 0.001) and loss of nerve signal in the distal carpal tunnel (p < 0.05). Sagittal images were very effective in precisely demonstrating the site and severity of nerve compression. After surgery, division of the flexor retinaculum could be demonstrated in all cases. Changes in nerve configuration, including increased cross-sectional area, and reduced flattening ratios (p < 0.001) were seen in all patients. In many cases restoration of the T2 signal intensity toward that of controls was seen in the median nerve in the distal carpal tunnel. Sagittal images were excellent in demonstrating expansion of the nerve at the site of surgical decompression.
Conclusions. In this study the authors suggest that MR neurography is an effective means of both confirming compression of the median nerve and its successful surgical decompression in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. This modality may prove useful in the assessment of unconfirmed or complex cases of carpal tunnel syndrome both before and after surgery.