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OBJECTIVE: To determine the diagnostic value of sonography in patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). METHODS: We conducted a prospective study of 110 wrists in 74 consecutive patients with suspected CTS who had been referred to a tertiary care center. We determined the largest cross-sectional area of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel. Because of the lack of a universally accepted reference standard, we first examined the association of sonography with nerve conduction. Then, we compared sonography with a reference standard based on the combination of nerve conduction studies and signs and symptoms. Sonography and reference standard tests were performed independently and interpreted under blinded conditions. Based on a fitted receiver operating characteristic curve, we estimated likelihood ratios (LRs) and posttest probabilities for different cutoffs. RESULTS: There was a high concordance between sonography and nerve conduction. Based on the combined reference standard, a cutoff of 10 mm(2) resulted in approximately equal sensitivity and specificity, but only moderate LRs. A cutoff of <8 mm(2) had satisfactory power to rule out CTS: the fitted-negative LR was 0.13. Conversely, a cutoff of > or =12 mm(2) had excellent power to rule in CTS, with a fitted-positive LR of 19.9. For nerves > or =12 mm(2) and a pretest probability of 70% expected in patients with suspected CTS in tertiary care, we found a posttest probability of CTS of 98%. CONCLUSION: Depending on setting and purpose, different cutoff values for the largest cross-sectional area may be used to accurately rule in or rule out CTS. Using sonography as a first-line test may cost-effectively reduce the number of nerve conduction studies in patients with suspected CTS. A large-scale, randomized controlled trial is required to determine the effects of sonography on clinical outcomes, the number of nerve conduction studies performed, and the total cost.

Original publication




Journal article


Arthritis Rheum

Publication Date





304 - 311


Adult, Aged, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Female, Humans, Likelihood Functions, Male, Middle Aged, Neural Conduction, Probability, Prospective Studies, ROC Curve, Sensitivity and Specificity, Ultrasonography