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Study shows benefits of carpal tunnel surgery

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New research reveals that people who have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) regain their typing ability within two to three weeks.

CTS is a condition that causes a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers. It is caused by compression of the median nerve, which controls sensation and movement in the hands.

The condition sometimes disappears without treatment, while non-surgical treatments such as wrist splints and corticosteroid injections are beneficial for some patients.

But surgery is also an option and can relieve the symptoms of mild CTS immediately. The procedure, known as carpal tunnel release (CTR), involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament, which reduces pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.

US researchers recently conducted a study to assess the effect of CTR on typing performance. They recruited 27 patients undergoing open CTR and assessed typing performance for an approximately 500-character paragraph.

The study showed that average typing speed decreased from around 49.7 words per minute (wpm) before surgery to 45.2 wpm at 8 to 10 days after surgery. Between the second and third weeks after surgery, the mean typing speed for the group exceeded the preoperative speed and there was continued improvement to around 53.5 wpm at 12 weeks after surgery.

“This provides a benchmark for recovery that prospective patients can consider in deciding whether to have surgery or when to have it,” said study co-author Gordon Logan, Centennial Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University.

“Since we found that patients regain their typing ability relatively quickly, we now allow them to go back to typing relatively early,” added co-author Donald Lee, a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “They may not be able to type for several hours at a time, but we don’t necessarily restrict them from typing around two to three weeks post op.”

The findings have been published in the Journal of Hand Surgery.