THE CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: MEDICAL AND ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES OF WELL-TIMED SURGICAL TREATMENT
Summary. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a somewhat neglected medical and economic problem, and surgery is one of the therapeutic options. We analyze the outcomes of surgical treatment in 114 consecutive patients (154 hands). Before the surgery, physical therapy was implemented (96% cases) and the patients were frequently on a sick leave (42% cases). Imme- diately before the surgery, the patients suffered intensive pain (median 7 on a 0–10 scale), and had a reduced hand function (median 2 on a 0–10 scale). After the surgery (6–12 months), the pain was reduced (difference –5.0, 95% CL –5.5, –4.5, p<0.001), and the function improved (difference 4.5, 95% CLs 4.0, 5.0, p<0.001). Longer time interval between referral to a primary care physician and referral to an orthopeadic surgeon (>1 year in 48% of the cases) was an independent negative predictor for these outcomes. Total difference in costs for sick leaves and physical therapies between the pre- and postopera- tive periods was estimated at approximately 269.030,00 to over 375.315,00 euros. The time between the entrance into the healthcare system and recognition of the need for surgical treatment of CTS needs to be reduced in order to get better medical and economic results.