Carpal tunnel syndrome in general practice (1987 and 2001): Incidence and the role of occupational and non-occupational factors

Frans J.M. Bongers, Francois G. Schellevis, Wil J.H.M. van den Bosch, Jouke van der Zee

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Background: Most studies on the incidence of the carpal tunnel syndrome and the relation of this disorder with occupation are population-based. In this study we present data from general practice. Aim: To compare incidence rates of carpal tunnel syndrome in 1987 with those in 2001, and to study the relationship between carpal tunnel syndrome and occupation. Design of study: Analysis of the data of the first and second Dutch National Survey of General Practice, conducted in 1987 and 2001, respectively. Setting: General practices in The Netherlands. Method: One hundred and three general practices in 1987 with 355 201 listed patients, and 96 practices with 364 998 listed patients in 2001, registered all patients who presented with a new episode of carpal tunnel syndrome. Patient and GP populations were representative for The Netherlands. Results: The crude incidence rate was 1.3 per 1000 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.0 to 1.5) in 1987, and 1.8 per 1000 (95% CI = 1.7 to 2.0) in 2001. In males it was 0.6 (95% CI = 0.5 to 0.7) and 0.9 (95% CI = 0.8 to 1.0) respectively; in females 1.9 (95% CI = 1.7 to 2.1) and 2.8 (95% CI = 2.6 to 3.1). At both study periods, peak incidence rate occurred in the 45-64-year age group: in 2001 this peak reached 4.8 per 1000 (95 CI = 4.1 to 5.4) for females and 1.6 (95 CI = 1.2 to 2.0) for males. Women who performed unskilled and semi-skilled work had 1.5 times greater risk of acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome than women with higher-skilled jobs (P<0.001). In men no relationship of this kind was found. Conclusion: In 2001 the crude incidence rate of carpal tunnel syndrome was 1.5 times higher than in 1987, but the difference was not statistically significant after subdividing by age and sex. In both years the female:male ratio was 3:1. Incidence rates were related to the job level of women, but not of men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-39
Number of pages4
JournalBritish journal of general practice
Issue number534
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Age distribution
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Occupational diseases

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