Responsiveness of Self-Reported and Objective Measures of Disease Severity in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


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Abstract

Responsiveness, the ability to detect meaningful clinical change, is a critical attribute of instruments used to evaluate outcomes of treatments. The authors hypothesized that self-administered symptom severity and functional status questionnaires are more responsive to clinical improvement after carpal tunnel release than traditional physical examination measures of strength and sensibility. Data were obtained from a randomized clinical trial of endoscopic versus open carpal tunnel release conducted in four university medical centers. Patients were evaluated before surgery and 3 months after surgery. Seventy-four patients indicating that they were more than 80% satisfied with the results of surgery were assumed to have clinically meaningful improvement and were the focus of the analysis. Evaluations included questionnaires assessing symptom severity, functional status, and activities of daily living as well as measurement of grip, pinch, and abductor pollicus brevis strength, and 2-point discrimination and Semmes-Weinstein pressure sensibility. Responsiveness was calculated with the standardized response mean (mean change/standard deviation of change) as well as the effect size (mean change/standard deviation of baseline values). The symptom severity scale was four times as responsive, and the functional status and activities of daily living scales were twice as responsive, as the measures of strength and sensibility. Self-administered symptom severity and functional status scales are much more responsive to clinical improvement than measures of neuromuscular impairment and should serve as primary outcomes in clinical studies of therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome.

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