Abnormal Nerve Conduction Test

Your doctor tells you that you have an Abnormal Nerve Conduction Test. You have the typical Carpal tunnel symptoms,but do you actually have Carpal tunnel syndrome? (CTS).

And to clarify some things for you...a NERVE CONDUCTION TEST is also known as a nerve conduction study (NCS) or a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test.

The term electrodiagnostic test or testing (Elect-trow-DIE-ag-noss-tick) is the broader term and it can cover both a Nerve conduction study and or an Electromyogram (Elect-tro-MY-gram) (EMG).

Now getting back to why you clicked on this page....

IF you have an abnormal nerve conduction test as part of your work-up, does that mean you have carpal tunnel syndrome? IF it comes back as Normal does that mean you DON'T have CTS?

The best, most truthful answer I can give you to both questions is "Probably".

An abnormal nerve conduction study generally means that you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, but as we have discussed on this site, there are many other factors that come into play and should be considered. See CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME CAUSES

A large study looking at abnormal nerve conduction test results, showed that out of almost 2,500 people about 14% reported pain, numbness or tingling along the median nerve distribution, See Carpal tunnel anatomy

Nerve conduction studies confirmed the presence of carpal tunnel syndrome (i.e. they had an "abnormal nerve conduction study) in about 45% of these SYMPTOMATIC patients (patients with CTS symptoms)

Ironically though, nerve conduction studies were NEGATIVE (i.e. normal NCS) in about 30% of the "Clinically certain" patients ! (based on their clinical presentation, exam, and history....their Doctors thought or were "certain" they would have CTS when tested via a nerve conduction study, but they actually didn't have CTS when it was all said and done!).

But, on the group that was "Clinically uncertain" about 30% of those people had an abnormal nerve conduction test!

Of the 125 ASYMPTOMATIC patients (patients with no CTS symptoms) who were examined, 18% were found to have an ABNORMAL NERVE CONDUCTION TEST!

Despite these findings a consensus remains from a lot of EXPERT GROUPS like the American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine among others, that nerve conduction studies are the diagnostic standard [The Gold Standard-a medical term that means this is the best test and one that all other tests should be compared to] for diagnosing Carpal tunnel syndrome, Especially if used in conjuction with an [EMG TEST].

So what should one do??.....Well for starters keep in mind this is just one tool in diagnosing your CTS. It is my practice to always order an EMG along with a NCS, this increases the accuracy of correctly diagnosing your nerve problem(s).

You should have also underwent a CARPAL TUNNEL TEST/EXAM and remember other factors like your medical history, work history, hobbies and risk factors also help narrow down your correct diagnosis. When put all together your provider should be confident in your diagnosis.

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