The bilaterality of idiopathic carpal tunnel syndrome among manual workers
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Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Łódź, Poland (Department of Occupational Diseases and Environmental Health)
Magdalena Lewańska   

Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Department of Occupational Diseases and Environmental Health, św. Teresy 8, 91-348 Łódź, Poland
Online publication date: 2020-01-16
Objectives: To evaluate: a) the prevalence of bilateral idiopathic carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in manual workers; b) a correlation between the duration of unilateral and bilateral CTS symptoms; c) a correlation between the onset of CTS symptoms in the unilateral dominant/non-dominant hand and the time of developing bilateral CTS; and d) findings of the nerve conduction study (NCS) in symptomatic and asymptomatic hands of patients with unilateral CTS. Material and Methods: Clinical and neurophysiological examinations were conducted along with a detailed analysis of job exposure of 332 manual workers admitted to the Occupational Medicine Department, the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, with suspected occupational CTS. Eventually, 258 patients were excluded from the study: 34 with associated neuropathies and 206 with other conditions potentially associated with CTS. Cases with work-related CTS (18) were also excluded. Results: A total of 74 patients were diagnosed as idiopathic CTS. In idiopathic CTS, the right hand was affected in 15 (20.3%) patients, the left hand in 4 (5.4%) patients, and both hands in 55 (74.3%) patients. Symptoms duration was longer in the patients with bilateral CTS (4.01 years) than in those with a unilateral right (1.7 years, p = 0.002) or left hand condition (2.8 years, p = 0.313). Median nerve impairment at the wrist was revealed by NCS in 6 left and 2 right asymptomatic hands. Conclusions: The findings of the study indicate the need for “alerting” patients with unilateral CTS about the risk of the disease developing in the contralateral hand. Therefore, NCS should be routinely performed in the asymptomatic hands of patients with unilateral CTS, which is essential for the prevention of neuropathies, especially among manual workers performing repetitive manual tasks.