Carpal tunnel syndrome causes increased cross-sectional area (CSA) of the median nerve, which can be assessed by high-definition ultrasonography. It is unclear today, however, whether high-definition ultrasonography may play a role in the postoperative period. This prospective study aimed to determine the natural history of the morphology of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel after surgical decompression assessed by high-definition ultrasonography.
Between October and December 2014, patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome who were referred to the authors’ center for peripheral neurosurgery were prospectively enrolled and underwent pre- and postoperative (3 months) high-definition ultrasonography, electrophysiology, and clinical testing.
Eighty-one patients were enrolled in the study, and 100% were clinically better at the 3-month follow-up. The mean CSA decreased from 14.7 ± 4.9 mm2 to 12.4 ± 3.4 mm2 (mean ± SD, p < 0.0001). The mean distal motor latency decreased from 6.6 ± 2.4 msec to 4.8 ± 1.0 msec (mean ± SD, p < 0.0001). Ninety-eight percent of patients who were available for electrodiagnostic follow-up showed an improvement of the distal motor latency; only 80% had a reduction in the CSA.
The authors present the second-largest series of patients with sonographic follow-up after surgical decompression of the carpal tunnel reported in the literature so far. This study, which showed a decrease in size of the median nerve after surgical decompression, suggests that the preoperative increase in median nerve CSA at the carpal tunnel may be due to compression and that enlargement of the median nerve is (partially) reversible.