Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment?

Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome: A detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the median nerve is necessary for a successful diagnosis of this condition. The entrapment of the nerve can occur in various sites, and it is important to recognize these sites to properly diagnose the condition. In addition to knowing the specific locations involved in this condition, you should also be aware of its variations.

Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

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What is Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome?

Median nerve entrapment syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve becomes compressed or pinched. This can occur at any point along the nerve’s pathway, but is most commonly seen at the wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome).

The median nerve is responsible for sensation in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. It also controls some of the muscles in the hand that allow for movement of the thumb and fingers.

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When the median nerve is compressed, it can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected hand. In severe cases, it can cause loss of grip strength and difficulty performing fine motor tasks. Treatment for median nerve entrapment syndrome typically involves rest, splinting, occupational therapy, and/or surgery.

Symptoms of Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

The physical examination and clinical presentation of median nerve entrapment syndrome can be complicated by normal anatomic variations.

For example, the median nerve is normally cross-connected with the ulnar nerve through the Martin-Gruber anastomosis, which is found in 7.5% to 23% of the population. This confounding factor can lead to abnormal findings during the physical examination and electrophysiologic tests.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically occur at night, and may wake you up from sleep. The symptoms will often occur when the wrist is bent or you are holding something for long periods of time, such as a telephone or reading a book. Moving the hands can help relieve symptoms. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and the causes of your pain.


Patients with symptoms of median nerve entrapment syndrome may also have other symptoms of neuropathy. These include motor and sensory weakness. The condition can also be associated with pronator teres syndrome or anterior interosseous nerve syndrome. Imaging can reveal the exact abnormality causing entrapment and secondary findings.

Numbness, pain, and weakness

The primary symptoms of median nerve entrapment syndrome include numbness, pain, and weakness in the hand and wrist. These symptoms can affect the ability to hold objects. They can even wake you up from sleep. If you have persistent symptoms, you may be able to relieve them by shaking your hand or moving your hand.


The clinical manifestation of CTS is most often associated with weakness in the hand or arm. However, the range of symptoms is extremely variable. Symptoms may involve the whole hand or may extend above the elbow to the shoulder.

Motor involvement may result in complaints of weakness or difficulty opening jar lids. Other clinical signs include atrophy of the thenar eminence and thumb abduction.

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If you have symptoms of nerve compression syndrome, see your doctor immediately. The sooner you treat the condition, the better your chances of a positive outcome. A delayed diagnosis can cause permanent muscle and nerve damage. In severe cases, nerve compression may require surgery. A patient will need to undergo physical therapy and take special painkillers.

Loss of pronation

Other symptoms associated with median nerve entrapment syndrome include loss of pronation at the superior and inferior radioulnar joints, loss of wrist flexion, and paralysis of pronator teres and quadratus. Patients may also experience pain and numbness in the hand.

Diagnosis of Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

Diagnosis of median nerve encasement syndrome is usually based on clinical presentation and physical examination findings. However, imaging can help confirm the diagnosis or to rule out other causes of neuropathy.


MRI or sonography can identify the cause of the entrapment and reveal secondary findings that can help in diagnosis. To correctly diagnose median entrapment, a radiologist should be familiar with the normal anatomy of the nerve and the places where it may become compressed. It is also essential to know which muscles are affected by the denervation of a particular nerve.

MRI scans may also be used to rule out other causes of symptoms. If the diagnosis of median nerve entrapment is made, MRI scans can identify abnormal tissues that could be affecting the median nerve. Once diagnosed, patients may be treated with NSAIDs and corticosteroid injections. If the condition is severe, median nerve decompression surgery may be an option.

Neuromuscular Ultrasound

Neuromuscular ultrasound may also reveal an increased cross-sectional area of the median nerve. This cut-off varies between studies, but typically ranges from 8.5 to 10 mm2 (in the four highest-quality studies). Neuromuscular ultrasound has a high sensitivity and specificity range, but it should be used with caution in elderly patients because the results may be inaccurate.

Treatment of Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

The treatment of median nerve entrapment syndrome depends on the type of nerve compression. Generally, this condition affects the wrist or elbow. Various injuries and conditions can cause this condition. Among them, wrist fractures are the most common cause.

Moreover, inflammation of the tendons and joints may cause pressure on the nerve. Other factors that can affect the nerve’s function are diabetes, arthritis, and repetitive movements.

Local Anesthetic

In order to diagnose this condition, the patient’s history and physical examination are of great importance. Usually, a local anesthetic is used to reduce pain and discomfort.

Surgical intervention is usually performed only after a careful evaluation of the nerve’s condition. The procedure involves a 3cm incision made over the front of the wrist. A surgeon will release the tight ligament encasing the median nerve, allowing it to breathe.

A patient may have local pain in the distal humerus in the area of the entrapment. The condition may also result in a fracture of the supracondylar process, which is associated with the pronator teres muscle.

Furthermore, a high bifurcation of the brachial artery and the high branching of the AIN from the median nerve have been associated with entrapment.

Site of the injury

Treatment of median nerve entrapment syndrome depends on the site of the injury. Depending on the location and severity of the condition, surgery may be necessary. In some cases, the nerve is injured during surgery. This causes a pin-like sensation that can be painful. In some cases, the nerve can be severe enough to cause amputation.

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If you are suffering from the symptoms of median nerve entrapment syndrome, it is imperative to seek treatment for the condition. The proper treatment will alleviate the pain and restore normal function to your wrist.

Variations of Median Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

Median nerve entrapment syndrome occurs when the nerve becomes compressed in a specific location, including the elbow or forearm.

This compression can result in one of three different clinical syndromes, including supracondylar process syndrome, pronator syndrome, and anterior interosseous nerve syndrome. All three of these disorders can cause motor and sensory weakness.

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Treatment for these conditions can vary, but generally focuses on conservative management. The condition often requires the help of multiple specialists, and the primary care physician is often involved in the initial diagnosis.

Martin-Gruber anastomosis

The most common variation is the Martin-Gruber anastomosis, involving one or two branches of the median nerve. This changes the innervation pattern of the forearm, hand, and wrist. In patients with this condition, the first dorsal interosseous and abductor digiti minimi muscles receive abnormal innervation from the median nerve.

PT syndrome

Another type of PT syndrome involves anatomical variation in the cubital region. This variation can compress the MN in the proximal forearm. In such a case, a pronator tendon or abnormal Struther ligament can compress the nerve.

The median nerve has a typical cross-sectional area of 9 to 11 mm2 at the pisiform level. However, in a study of 110 symptomatic wrists, a wide range of sizes was found. In one study, median nerve sizes as small as six mm2 had 99% sensitivity and 100% specificity. These results suggest that neuropathy in this region is caused by nerve entrapment.

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