MR nerve imaging in a prospective cohort of patients with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome

J. G. Jarvik*, E. Yuen, D. R. Haynor, C. M. Bradley, D. Fulton-Kehoe, T. Smith-Weller, R. Wu, M. Kliot, G. Kraft, L. Wang, V. Erlich, P. J. Heagerty, G. M. Franklin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the reliability and diagnostic accuracy of high-resolution MRI of the median nerve in a prospectively assembled cohort of subjects with clinically suspected carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Methods: The authors prospectively identified 120 subjects with clinically suspected CTS from five Seattle-area clinics. All subjects completed a hand-pain diagram and underwent a standardized nerve conduction study (NCS). The reference standard for determining CTS status was a classic or probable hand pain diagram and NCS with a difference >0.3 ms between the 8-cm median and ulnar peak latencies. Readers graded multiple imaging parameters of the MRI on four-point scales. The authors also performed quantitative measurements of both the median nerve and carpal tunnel cross-sectional areas. NCS and MRI were interpreted without knowledge of the other study or the hand pain diagram. Results: Intrareader reliability was substantial to near perfect (kappa = 0.76 to 0.88). Interreader agreement was lower but still substantial (kappa = 0.60 to 0.67). Sensitivity of MRI was greatest for the overall impression of the images (96%) followed by increased median nerve signal (91%); however, specificities were low (33 to 38%). The length of abnormal signal on T2-weighted images was significantly correlated with nerve conduction latency, and median nerve area was larger at the distal radioulnar joint (15.8 vs 11.8 mm2) in patients with CTS. A logistic regression model combining these two MR variables had a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.85. Conclusions: The reliability of MRI is high but the diagnostic accuracy is only moderate compared with a research-definition reference standard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1597-1602
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 11 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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