Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome by low-level laser versus open carpal tunnel release


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an entrapment neuropathy of the median nerve at the wrist. It is one of the most common peripheral nerve disorders. The cause of idiopathic CTS remains unclear. The diagnosis of CTS is still mainly clinical. Open carpal tunnel release is the standard treatment. The present study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of low level laser treatment (LLLT) for CTS in comparison to the standard open carpal tunnel release surgery. Out of 54 patients, 60 symptomatic hands complaining of CTS were divided into two equal groups. Group A, was subjected to LLLT by Helium Neon (He–Ne) laser (632.8 nm), whereas group B was treated by the open approach for carpal tunnel release. The patients were evaluated clinically and by nerve conduction studies (NCSs) about 6 months after the treatment. LLLT showed overall significant results but at a lower level in relation to surgery. LLLT showed significant outcomes in all parameters of subjective complaints (p ≤ 0.01) except for muscle weakness. Moreover, LLLT showed significant results in all parameters of objective findings (p ≤ 0.01) except for thenar atrophy. However, NCSs expressed the same statistical significance (p ≤ 0.01) after the treatment by both modalities. LLLT has proven to be an effective and noninvasive treatment modality for CTS especially for early and mild-to-moderate cases when pain is the main presenting symptom. However, surgery could be preserved for advanced and chronic cases. Refinement of laser tools and introduction of other wavelengths could make LLLT for CTS treatment a field for further investigations.

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The authors thank Mrs. Reham Shahin for her effort during the primary conduction of LLLT for CTS. Finally, we express our appreciation for the staff of the Clinical Neurophysiology unit, Cairo University, for their cooperation during NCSs.

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Correspondence to Tarek F. Elwakil.

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Elwakil, T.F., Elazzazi, A. & Shokeir, H. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome by low-level laser versus open carpal tunnel release. Lasers Med Sci 22, 265–270 (2007).

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  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Pain
  • Helium Neon (He–Ne) laser
  • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)
  • Photobiomodulation