Where your hand connects to your wrist, there’s a small passageway known as the carpal tunnel. This passageway allows the median nerve to pass through, connecting the hand and arm muscles with the brain.
Unfortunately, overuse, injury, inflammation, or other causes can sometimes cause the carpal tunnel to become too tight, compressing the median nerve and leading to pain, numbness, and tingling in your fingers and hand. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Current Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Milder cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can usually be managed with rest, splinting, and over-the-counter meds like aspirin and ibuprofen.
More serious cases may require physical therapy, steroid injections, or even surgery. But these options are not always effective and carry a risk of complications.
For example, steroid injections only provide temporary relief for 2 or 3 months, and frequent treatments can cause additional health problems. Surgery is effective but carries a risk of infection, nerve damage, and destruction of nearby tissues, as well as a longer recovery period.
A Promising New Option: Saline Hydrodissection
Over the past few years, several clinical studies have been conducted on a new, minimally invasive procedure called hydrodissection.
This procedure involves injecting a solution between the tissues surrounding the affected nerve. The solution acts as a barrier and lubricant, relieving pressure on the nerve.
At the recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, a team of researchers presented their findings from a study comparing a saline hydrodissection procedure to corticosteroid injections.
One group of participants was given the saline hydrodissection treatment. A second group was given corticosteroid injections. And a third group received a combined treatment of both hydrodissection and corticosteroids.
Four weeks later, all three groups reported a reduction in pain symptoms. But by the 12- and 24-week follow-up visits, only the hydrodissection groups reported continued relief.
The addition of corticosteroids did not appear to provide significant benefits for the combined treatment group, suggesting that saline treatments alone could provide pain relief.
Is It Available Now?
Clinical trials are still ongoing to verify the long-term safety and efficacy of this treatment. It is a quick and simple procedure that doesn’t require any special equipment, and the patient can return to work an hour after treatment.
So far, the evidence suggests that the effects of saline hydrodissection may begin to wear off after around six months, but repeated treatments may be substantially safer that repeated treatments of steroid injections.
If you are living with carpal tunnel syndrome, talk to your doctor about currently available treatment options. Although saline hydrodissection is not yet widely available, you may be able to enroll in a clinical trial to help progress research on this promising new treatment.