Black Americans Get Carpal Tunnel Surgery Less Often Than Whites

(HealthDay News) — African Americans undergo surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome at a lower rate than their White counterparts, according to a study published in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Rachel C. Hooper, M.D., from Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the timespan between diagnosis and surgical intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome among 361,942 African American and White patients on Medicaid using data from 2009 to 2020.

The researchers found that 21.4 and 13.6 percent of White and African American patients, respectively, chose surgery as their first and only treatment option. Compared with African American patients, more White patients underwent surgery less than six months after diagnosis (75.5 versus 67.7 percent). Compared with White women, African American women underwent surgery at a significantly lower rate (13.8 versus 21.8 percent). Increases in the rates of surgery were seen in both groups, but the gap in use of surgery between racial groups widened from 6.6 percent in 2009 to 9.5 percent in 2020.

“Identification of barriers to surgery, such as patient trust, physician race and gender discordance, patient economic and social burdens, and lack of understanding, is an identifiable target,” the authors write.

One author disclosed receiving a research grant from Sonex.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a musculoskeletal disorder caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway in the wrist. This compression leads to symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand and fingers. Bones and ligaments form the carpal tunnel, and any condition that causes swelling or inflammation in this area can compress the median nerve (the nerve that allows you to move your hands and fingers), leading to CTS.

Various factors contribute to the development of Carpal tunnel syndrome, including repetitive hand and wrist movements, anatomy, like obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism, and pregnancy.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and Black Americans

While Carpal tunnel syndrome affects individuals of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, research suggests that Black Americans may experience unique challenges related to its diagnosis, treatment, and management. Studies have shown that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by certain risk factors associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, such as obesity and diabetes. According to a 2023 National Health Statistics Report, Black workers are more likely to be employed in industries with higher rates of repetitive motion tasks, increasing their risk of developing CTS. Black Americans are overrepresented in occupations such as manufacturing, construction, and service industries. These occupations often lack ergonomic support and may expose workers to higher levels of physical strain, increasing their risk of developing the condition.

More research is needed to understand the specific factors contributing to disparities in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome prevalence and outcomes among Black Americans. Collecting and analyzing data on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and occupational factors can inform targeted interventions and policy decisions.

In order to reduce the prevalence of CTS, Employers should implement ergonomic interventions and safety measures to reduce the risk of CTS among workers, particularly in industries with high rates of repetitive motion tasks. Providing access to ergonomic equipment, job rotation, and breaks can help alleviate strain on the hands and wrists.

Abstract/Full Text

Read More About Neurology