Getting a Grip on Treatment Choices for Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) has become one of the most common job-related injuries. About 1.9 million American workers develop CTS each year. It causes enormous disruptions for workers and employers, and the financial impacts are huge.
For the most part, workers tend to think that medical treatment offers little help for their CTS. They especially doubt that surgery can help. But according to a recent study of Workers Compensation cases, these perceptions are wrong.
The study compared the results of surgical and conservative treatment of CTS in 182 Workers Compensation cases. Surgery was performed on just over half of these patients. The rest received conservative treatment. The authors conclude that both kinds of treatment are effective. Overall, 82% of the workers returned to full employment. The others retained some disability.
However, workers who underwent surgery had even less disability than workers who received only conservative treatment. Over 87% of the workers who had surgery returned to work with no disability. This compares to about 75% of the workers who got conservative treatment. In both cases, patients who had severe CTS were less likely to recover completely.
The authors' main conclusion is that surgery seems to be the most effective way to treat occupational CTS. And surgery is possibly more cost-effective for the injured workers, their employers, and the Workers' Compensation system.
Alexander Y. Shin, et al. Disability Outcomes in a Worker's Compensation Population: Surgical Versus Nonsurgical Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In The American Journal of Orthopedics. March 2000. Vol. 29. No. 3. Pp. 179-184.
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