Carpal tunnel syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome

Musculoskeletal system


Carpal tunnel syndrome


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USMLE® Step 1 questions

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USMLE® Step 2 questions

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High Yield Notes

10 pages


Carpal tunnel syndrome

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USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

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USMLE® Step 2 style questions USMLE

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A 45-year-old woman presents to her primary care physician to evaluate bilateral wrist pain. The patient has worse pain at night and is associated with paresthesias of the first, second, third, and half of the fourth finger. She states, “I need to figure out what is going on. I can barely sleep at night.” Past medical history includes hypertension, type II diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity. She smokes a pack of cigarettes daily and drinks two to three beers nightly. She currently works as an office secretary. Vital signs are within normal limits, and physical examination does not reveal any deformity or swelling of the wrist. Which of the following will best assist in diagnosing this patient’s underlying condition?  

External References

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Acromegaly p. 345

carpal tunnel syndrome p. 456


carpal tunnel syndrome p. 456

Arthritis p. 476

carpal tunnel syndrome and p. 456

Carpal tunnel syndrome p. 455

lunate disclocation p. 456

median nerve injury p. 455

rheumatoid arthritis p. 476

Diabetes mellitus p. 352-360

carpal tunnel syndrome p. 456

Hypothyroidism p. 346, 347

carpal tunnel syndrome and p. 456

Median nerve

carpal tunnel syndrome p. 455

Pregnancy p. 657

carpal tunnel syndrome and p. 456

Rheumatoid arthritis p. 476

carpal tunnel syndrome and p. 456


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve entrapment disorder that results from compression of the median nerve which winds its way through the wrist through a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel.

This compression typically causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring finger, which are the areas of skin innervated by the median nerve.

Now taking a cross section of the wrist, we’ll see a bony arch known as a carpal arch on the dorsal side of the hand which forms the floor of the carpal tunnel, and a sheath of connective tissue called the flexor retinaculum or transverse carpal ligament, which is on the palmar side of the hand forms the roof of the carpal tunnel.

Also there are nine flexor tendons, which go to the fingers and thumb, as well as one nerve—the median nerve—which travels down the forearm and go through the carpal tunnel.

The skin of the hand served by the median nerve includes the thumb, the index finger, and middle finger, as well as half of the ring finger that’s on the thumb side.

The other side of the ring finger and pinky are served by the ulnar nerve, and the back of the hand’s served by the radial nerve, only the median nerve goes through the carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve, and that typically happens as a result of inflammation of the nearby tendons and tissues, which creates local edema or swelling which increases the amount of fluid in a very tight space, and essentially puts pressure on the median nerve.


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  3. "Pathophysiology of Disease: An Introduction to Clinical Medicine 8E" McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (2018)
  4. "CURRENT Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2020" McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (2019)
  5. "Diagnosing and managing carpal tunnel syndrome in primary care" British Journal of General Practice (2014)
  6. "The Quality and Strength of Evidence for Etiology: Example of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome" The Journal of Hand Surgery (2008)
  7. "Prevalence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a General Population" JAMA (1999)

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