Surveillance of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome in Massachusetts, 1992–1997: A report from the Massachusetts sentinel event notification system for occupational risks (SENSOR)*


  • *

    Work was performed at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.



This surveillance study was undertaken to target efforts to prevent work-related carpal tunnel syndrome (WR-CTS) and to assess physician case-reports as a source of surveillance data.


Physician case-reports and workers’ compensation disability claims were used to document patterns of WR-CTS in Massachusetts from March 1992 to June 1997 by age, gender, industry, occupation, and calendar year. Characteristics of cases identified through the two data sources were compared.


4,836 cases of WR-CTS were ascertained; 6% were identified by both data sources. Whereas the two sets of cases were similar with respect to age and occupation categories, physician-reported cases were more likely male and employed in manufacturing. The number of compensation claims filed by women declined over time, and a substantial number of cases under age 25 years were identified. Manufacturing workers had the highest rates; the highest numbers of cases were employed in hospitals, grocery stores, and the insurance industry. Several technical/administrative support occupations likely to use video display terminals had both high rates and frequencies.


WR-CTS is a significant public health problem. Physician reports are useful in understanding problem magnitude and targeting specific establishments for intervention but are currently of limited use in targeting specific industries and occupations. Am. J. Ind. Med. 39:58–71, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.