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Non-invasive approach can ease carpal tunnel syndrome

Painful hand condition affects millions

The procedure is done under just local anesthesia, using ultrasound guidance technology to correct the problem.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An estimated 12 million Americans suffer from a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the hand and wrist.

The simple act of typing used to be a painful experience for Amy Wendt.

“I started to notice at night that my hand would go numb predominately my right hand I woke up numb and it would be tingling and I thought maybe I was sleeping in a funny position,” she said.

But within a year the pain spread to her left hand and the sensation got worse.

“It was as if someone was sticking a knife in with an electric charge on it,” Wendt said.

Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, a sports medicine specialist with Broward Health’s Imperial Point Medical Center, said Wendt had the classic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

“What happens in carpal tunnel is one of the nerves, particularly the medial nerve, gets compressed. When the nerve is compressed it starts to suffer leading to pain numbness tingling and if left untreated permanent nerve damage and long-term weakness,” Gonzalez said.

The first-line treatment is non-surgical including medication, night splints, activity modification and steroid injections.

Once severe damage is done, the only option is surgery.

“The problem with surgery is that traditionally the surgery becomes quite long weeks to months and a lot of patients do not want to pursue the surgical option due to the prolonged recovery,” Gonzalez said.

A newer option is a technique called Sonex which is done under just local anesthesia using ultrasound guidance technology to correct the problem.

“It allows me to see inside being able to identify that band of tissue that was pressing the nerve and with newer technology I can make a three- or four-millimeter incision that allows me to access the wrist and free up the nerve,” Gonzalez said.

A few weeks after surgery, Wendt was back in action, enjoying her favorite activities again without any pain.

“It was completely gone, it was fixed,” she said.

The procedure takes about 15 minutes and can reduce the patient’s downtime from five weeks to five days.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.