What are the diagnostic implications of a finding of Martin-Gruber anomaly in the evaluation of ulnar neuropathy?

Updated: Jun 08, 2018
  • Author: Charles F Guardia, III, MD; Chief Editor: Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, MHA, CPE  more...
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Two potentially important diagnostic implications are associated with this Martin-Gruber anomaly.

First, in cases of carpal tunnel syndrome (ie, median mononeuropathy at the wrist), the larger median CMAP amplitude at the elbow has an initial positive (ie, downward) deflection, which is not seen at the wrist. The explanation is that the median nerve axons are traveling slower through the carpal tunnel, so that the median-innervated ulnar hand muscles conduct first, leading to a volume-conducted response that is manifested by a positive deflection.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected clinically, the chance of a false-negative result on nerve conduction testing is still about 8-10%. Given that the anomaly exists 15-31% of the time, a chance still exists of diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome electrically.

Second, in suspected cases of ulnar neuropathy at the elbow or forearm, a reduced-to-absent response would be expected proximally with sparing of the wrist responses, provided that no diffuse severe axon loss has occurred.

To disprove a true ulnar neuropathy, stimulation of the median nerve at the elbow would lead to a wrist response that, when added to the response achieved by stimulating the ulnar nerve at the elbow, would equal a difference of less than 20-25% between elbow and wrist, which is acceptable as normal temporal dispersion. Stimulation of the median nerve at the wrist should lead to a small response; this would represent contributions from ulnar-derived muscles in the thenar eminence. [138, 139, 140, 141]

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