Median nerve versus flexor tendons: visualization of median nerve level changes in the proximal carpal tunnel during wrist movement with dynamic high-resolution ultrasound

Suren Armeni Jengojan1, Lisa Lechner1, Gregor Kasprian1, Elena Drakonaki2, Veith Moser3, Žiga Snoj4, Gerd Bodner5

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2023; 23: e114–e121
DOI: 10.15557/JoU.2023.0020
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Aim: The purpose of this prospective ultrasound study was to document dorso-palmar (vertical) displacement of the median nerve in relation to the superficial flexor tendons at the level of the carpal tunnel. Furthermore, the gliding patterns of the median nerve were characterized. The presence of vertical gliding was intended to serve as an additional bio-kinematic parameter of median nerve movement, and will be referred to as a ‘level change’. Material and methods: In this study, a total of 32 healthy young individuals underwent dynamic high-resolution ultrasound examinations of both wrists. The neutral position, and maximum flexion and extension of the wrist had to be reached in active and passive movement. The gliding patterns were determined in relation to the superficial flexor tendons. When no vertical nerve gliding was observed, it was characterized as ‘no level change’. Results: The presence of a level change prevailed in the healthy young cohort and was observed in 84% (27/32) of individuals during wrist flexion. The following gliding pattern was distinctively the most common: gliding of the entire nerve in between the flexor tendons in active but not in passive movement of the right and left wrists (13/27; 48%). The extent of vertical displacement was found to be associated with the gliding pattern (Kruskal–Wallis test). Conclusions: Movement in the carpal tunnel allows the median nerve to adapt to biomechanical stress. Dynamic ultrasound can demonstrate median nerve level changes in response to wrist movements. Furthermore, a typical gliding pattern was characterized. The presence of level change and gliding patterns were proposed as additional movement parameters during wrist flexion in healthy individuals.

carpal tunnel; dynamic high-resolution ultrasound; median nerve gliding; nerve biomechanics