Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Heart Failure Risk

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Heart Failure Risk

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome May Be Linked to Heart Failure Among Older Adults

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Illustration

Call it a hand signal of sorts. New research from Germany shows that the common nerve disorder carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be a harbinger for heart failure among older folks. In a study of 164,000 people aged 60 or older, those with CTS had nearly a 50% higher risk for heart failure. The association between the two is intriguing yet does not imply causation, and patients with carpal tunnel should not panic.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects between 3% and 6% of adults, causing pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand and wrist. Left untreated, it can lead to permanent hand dysfunction. On the other hand, heart failure affects over 6 million adult Americans, occurring when the heart fails to pump enough blood for the body’s needs. It is more common among the elderly and significantly raises the risk of premature death.

The link between carpal tunnel syndrome and heart failure was first reported in a Danish study in 2019. To further explore this relationship, a team of researchers from Germany looked at about 82,000 German patients diagnosed with CTS between 2005 and 2020. The average age of the patients was 53, and about two-thirds were women. They were tracked over a decade to identify the occurrence of heart failure.

It was found that there was no risk association among patients under the age of 60, likely due to the rarity of heart failure in younger individuals. However, for patients aged 60 and above, there was a clear increase in risk. 6.2% of non-CTS patients in this age group were ultimately diagnosed with heart failure, compared to 8.4% of CTS patients. The risk association was similar among both men and women, suggesting that seniors with carpal tunnel may face a roughly 50% greater risk for developing heart failure than those who do not have the condition.

The reason for this link is still unknown, but one theory is the potential involvement of amyloidosis. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be an early symptom of this rare disease, which occurs when a protein called amyloid builds up in organs, causing them to work improperly. However, not every case of carpal tunnel syndrome is linked to amyloidosis, and not every amyloidosis case causes heart failure. Therefore, more research is needed to fully understand this connection.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center in Los Angeles, highlighted the significance of amyloidosis as an under-recognized cause of heart failure. Previous research has shown that patients with amyloidosis may present with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome years before cardiac impairment and a heart failure diagnosis. This suggests that a CTS diagnosis could potentially serve as an early indicator of an increased risk of heart failure.

However, it is important to note that the majority of carpal tunnel syndrome patients do not develop heart failure. Therefore, routine systematic cardiac screening of those diagnosed with CTS requires further study to determine its effectiveness and necessity.

The findings of this study provide valuable insights into the potential link between carpal tunnel syndrome and heart failure among older adults. While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind this association, healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential increased risk of heart failure among seniors with CTS. This knowledge can aid in early detection and prevention strategies, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open on July 12, 2023.

Sources: – Karel Kostev, PhD, Senior Scientific Principal for Epidemiology, IQVIA, Frankfurt, Germany – Gregg Fonarow, MD, Director, Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, Co-director, UCLA Preventative Cardiology Program, and Co-chief, UCLA Division of Cardiology, Los Angeles – JAMA Network Open, July 12, 2023

More Information: The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on carpal tunnel syndrome.