NEW YORK (Reuters Health)—About 15% of women who develop carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) while pregnant will suffer persistent and worsening symptoms long after delivery, a new study suggests.
“Conventional medical wisdom has been that gestational carpal tunnel syndrome simply goes away after pregnancy, and for many women this is true. However, in our practice this wasn’t always the case,” lead investigator Philip Blazar, MD, chief of the Hand and Upper Extremity Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, notes in a phone interview with Reuters Health.
CTS causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hand and arm. The exact cause of gestational CTS is unknown, but fluid retention, weight gain and hormones are likely contributing factors. GCTS is “fairly common but there is very little research on it,” Dr. Blazar says.
He and his colleagues gave the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire (BCTQ) to 368 women in their third trimester of pregnancy who had GCTS and no prior history of CTS. The women completed the BCTQ again at two to six weeks, three months, six months and 12 months after delivery or until symptoms resolved or they had surgical treatment.
The study found that about 28% of previously asymptomatic women had symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in their third trimester. The vast majority of these women (85%) had resolution of symptoms by six weeks postpartum.
However, one month after delivery, about 15% women still had persistent symptoms of CTS. For women who didn’t have resolution three months postpartum, symptoms persisted and worsened over time.
Demographic and comorbid conditions found to increase the likelihood of developing GCTS include non-Caucasian, higher body weight, history of smoking and preeclampsia.