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March 6, 1978

Handcuff Neuropathy

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, Calif.

JAMA. 1978;239(10):957. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280370053024

WE RECENTLY encountered two men who, after being arrested, had symptoms and signs consistent with peripheral nerve injury at the wrist. In each case, we suspect that prolonged application of tight handcuffs was causally related to the nerve lesion, which was verified by electrophysiological studies.

Report of Cases 

Case 1.—  A 30-year-old man was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. While being transported to jail, his hands were handcuffed behind his back for about 45 minutes. The right handcuff felt tight, and when he arrived at the jail, his right hand was numb. After the the handcuffs were removed, the numbness improved, but residual diminished sensation in the thumb and index finger remained and spread into the middle finger when he used the hand. Neurological examination showed normal muscle strength, normal reflexes in the right arm and hand, and no objective impairment of sensation. The patient complained of subjectively