We investigated the median nerve deformation in the carpal tunnel in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and controls during thumb, index finger, middle finger, and a four finger motion, using ultrasound. Both wrists of 29 asymptomatic volunteers and 29 patients with idiopathic carpal tunnel syndrome were evaluated by ultrasound. Cross-sectional images during motion from full extension to flexion were recorded. Median nerve cross-sectional area, perimeter, aspect ratio of the minimal enclosing rectangle, and circularity in extension and flexion positions were calculated. Additionally, a deformation index was calculated. We also calculated the intra-rater reliability. In both controls and patients, the median nerve cross-sectional area became significantly smaller from extension to flexion in all finger motions (p < 0.05). In flexion and extension, regardless of the specific finger motion, the median nerve deformation, circularity and the change in perimeter were all significantly greater in CTS patients than in controls (p < 0.05). We found excellent intra-rater reliability for all measurements (ICC > 0.84). With this study we have shown that it is possible to assess the deformation of the median nerve in carpal tunnel syndrome with ultrasonography and that there is more deformation of the median nerve in carpal tunnel syndrome patients during active finger motion. These parameters might be useful in the evaluation of kinematics within the carpal tunnel, and in furthering our understanding of the biomechanics of carpal tunnel syndrome in the future.
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