Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Instrumentalists: A Review of 15 Years' Clinical Experience

William J. Dawson
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 14 Number 1: Page 25 (March 1999)

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Abstract: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is common in instrumental musicians and nonmusicians alike. The author reports his experience with a personal series of 98 instrumentalists diagnosed as having CTS from 1982 to 1996 and gives some comparisons with a cohort of 531 nonmusicians with CTS seen from 1991 to 1995. Demographically, the musician study group was quite similar to the nonmusician cohort. There was a 2.63:1 female preponderance and an age range of 16-85 years in the musician group. Keyboard and string performers comprised the majority of this patient group. Diagnostic and etiologic details of CTS are reported. Nearly two-thirds of the 98 cases were idiopathic, while another 18% were caused by playing music. Treatment of musicians and nonmusicians followed similar principles, with early surgery reserved for those presenting with obvious denervation (30.6%). Nonoperative treatment, including activity modification, splinting, exercises, and medication, was successful in 88.2% of the others. Outcomes of treatment among the musician cohort were, with one exception, favorable; 93% of all patients followed were cured or significantly improved, and the majority of them were able to return completely to musical activities

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