Aim: To investigate the non-operative primary care management (splintage, task modification advice, steroid injections and oral medications) of carpal tunnel syndrome before patients were referred to a hand surgeon for decompression. Design and setting: Preoperative data were obtained on age, gender, body mass index, employment, symptom duration, and preoperative clinical stage for patients undergoing carpal tunnel decompression (263 in the USA, 227 in the UK). Results: Primary care physicians made relatively poor use of beneficial treatment options with the exception of splintage in the US (73% of cases compared with 22.8% in the UK). Steroid injections were used in only 22.6% (US) and 9.8% (UK) of cases. Task modification advice was almost never given. Oral medication was employed in 18.8% of US cases and 8.9% of UK cases. Conclusions: This study analyses the non-operative modalities available and suggests that there is scope for more effective use of non-operative treatment before referral for carpal tunnel decompression.
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