What is the pathophysiology of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)?

Updated: Mar 30, 2020
  • Author: Nigel L Ashworth, MBChB, MSc, FRCPC; Chief Editor: Milton J Klein, DO, MBA  more...
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Until the advent of electrophysiologic testing in the 1940s, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) commonly was thought to be the result of compression of the brachial plexus by cervical ribs and other structures in the anterior neck region (so-called thoracic outlet syndrome). It is now known that the median nerve is damaged within the rigid confines of the carpal tunnel, initially undergoing demyelination followed by axonal degeneration. Sensory fibers often are affected first, followed by motor fibers. Autonomic nerve fibers carried in the median nerve also may be affected.

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