Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Device Shows Promise


For immediate release: Dec. 23, 1997
Contact: Teresa Sokol Thomas
(412) 268-3580

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Device Shows Promise, Say Carnegie Mellon Research Institute Scientists

PITTSBURGH--Carnegie Mellon Research Institute scientists are working with a Pennsylvania physician on a new device that could bring relief to the millions of people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. The device provides an effective non-surgical treatment enabling doctors to more accurately treat carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) reducing recovery time and cost.

Created by Dr. Larry Goldberg of Philadelphia, the patented device "CTS-RELEASE: - A Precision Injection System," was brought to Carnegie Mellon's applied research division for an independent evaluation as the first step towards commercialization. Carnegie Mellon Research Institute (CMRI) scientist Marc Portnoff said the treatment "is not a radical departure from current non-surgical practice but offers a significant improvement in patient care."

Portnoff further described CTS-RELEASE as an apparatus designed to aid physicians in reliably delivering medication using its patented two-step method. CTS-RELEASE holds the patient's hand and wrist stationary and assists the physician in locating the anatomical center of the carpal tunnel. It is here that both anesthetic and therapeutic corticosteriods are injected, allowing the medication to reside longer in the carpal tunnel and at higher concentrations. The placement of the medication is key to treating the inflammation and pain associated with CTS.

Corticosteroid injection therapy has been employed in the management of CTS in much the same way over the past 30 years. Dr. Goldberg, while practicing internal medicine, said he was convinced it was time for a change and that a device that could standardize some aspects of treatment would help both patients and doctors.

Portnoff outlined the advantages of CTS-RELEASE, saying it provides:

-- an effective non-surgical procedure for treating CTS, eliminating the risks and complications associated with CTS surgery (for example, prolonged pre-operative patient pain, inconvenience, prolonged convalescence).

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-- an effective treatment for patients previously considered poor candidates for non-surgical treatments, such as those for whom surgery has failed.

-- greater access to care, at greatly reduced costs, because it can be used by any physician in the doctor's office, not just by a few specially trained surgeons in hospitals.

-- an increased likelihood for resuming pre-CTS activities, both on and off the job.

Goldberg treated more than 270 patients' wrists using his carpal tunnel device with great success. In better than 98 percent of these cases patient relief of CTS symptoms ranged from one to over four years. More than half of the patients experienced relief for more than two years. Current practice results in only 20 percent of patients remaining pain-free after one year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the impact of carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injuries (RSI) is rising. Nearly 25 percent of all injuries that result in lost work time are due to carpal tunnel and related repetitive stress injuries. Government and business reports estimate that $100 billion is spent annually on costs related to the lost work time and lost productivity from carpal tunnel and RSI.

Carpal tunnel is the most common and disabling of the various kinds of repetitive stress injuries (RSI). Problems arise when the carpal tunnel tendons become irritated and swell, putting painful pressure on the median nerve. Pressure on the nerve, in turn, produces the symptoms of CTS, including loss of hand strength, numbness (especially at night), tingling and stiff, swollen joints. In extreme cases, individuals are unable to bend their fingers.

Corticosteroid injections are used to reduce pressure on the median nerve Goldberg said only specialists now know--with some degree of accuracy--where to inject the corticosteroid for carpal tunnel treatments. But this device could put the treatment method comfortably into the hands of primary care physicians, not just specialists, said Portnoff, and so further reduce the costs of treatment. This device also reduces the risk of hitting the median nerve, the major risk associated with corticosteroid injection.

Dr. Goldberg, who has been losing his sight from a retinal disease, was able to create the device with the aid of an industrial designer.

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