It is not well known how the nonoperated contralateral hand behaves in bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The postoperative clinical course of the nonoperated contralateral hand in unilateral CTS is not well documented either. Of 324 CTS patients, the authors studied 37 who had carpal tunnel release on one hand only to evaluate the postoperative outcome of the nonoperated contralateral hand. The other 287 patients had operations on both hands. Seven patients were excluded because of missing data or because they could not be contacted. All 324 patients were subject to clinical and electrodiagnostic studies on both hands. The patients were divided into three groups. Group I was composed of patients who had bilateral CTS, diagnosed clinically and electrophysiologically, but who had surgery done only on the hand with the most pronounced symptoms. The patients in group II showed symptoms of CTS in one hand only. However, the opposite hand was diagnosed with subclinical CTS: Electrodiagnostic studies showed involvement of the median nerve, but without symptoms. Group III was composed of true unilateral CTS patients, diagnosed by symptoms and electrodiagnostic study. The results of the electrodiagnosis were categorized according to the severity of median nerve damage (mild, moderate, severe). The outcome and postoperative clinical course of the nonoperated contralateral hand were evaluated by electromyography and telephone survey. This method of survey was used because of the vast spread of patients throughout the country. Within 1 year, all 30 operated hands showed significant improvement, 20 of which belonged to group I. Regarding progress of the nonoperated contralateral hand, 10 patients showed improvement of one grade whereas 5 patients showed three grades of improvement. In another 5 patients there was no change whatsoever. In addition, from groups II and III there were 5 patients who showed no change in the nonoperated hand. The postoperative electromyographic findings of the nonoperated contralateral hand was not commensurate with the symptoms. However, regardless of electromyographic results, the nonoperated contralateral hand showed significant improvement (p < 0.0001). Patients with unilateral CTS did not experience any symptom development in the nonoperated contralateral hand.
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