Grant News

Carpal tunnel syndrome – nonsurgical manipulation may improve quality of life

Zong-Ming Li, PhD, Biomedical Engineering, received a 2-year, $384K R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH/NIAMSD), "Exploration of Carpal Tunnel Mechanics for CTS Treatment."

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) impairs functionality at work and in activities of daily living; the usual treatment involves severing the transverse carpal ligament, which brings its own set of postsurgical problems. In this 2-year data-gathering study, Zong-Ming Li, PhD, Biomedical Engineering, with clinical colleague Peter Evans, MD, PhD, Orthopaedic Surgery, are investigating a nonsurgical alternative to carpal tunnel release surgery, performed on half a million Americans each year. The Li laboratory has discovered a novel mechanism of carpal tunnel manipulation to obtain tunnel enlargement by narrowing the carpal arch width (not stretching the carpal arch outwards), thus preserving the ligament’s integrity. The study seeks to answer whether CTS can be treated by nonsurgical, biomechanical manipulation of the carpal tunnel, i.e., by applying compression on the wrist to increase carpal tunnel cross-sectional area and decrease tunnel pressure, thus relieving the median nerve from mechanical insult. The team is studying biomechanical relationships among transverse compressive force, carpal tunnel pressure, carpal arch width, and carpal tunnel cross-sectional area using cadaveric specimens and human subjects.