Median Neuropathy After Blood Draw Mimics Painful Clenched Fist Syndrome in a Child

Elspeth J.R. Hill, Lorna C. Kahn, Lynne M. Sterni, Susan E. Mackinnon, John M. Felder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Clenched fist syndrome is a rare disorder, often attributed to a conversion disorder without anatomic basis. Here, we review the literature surrounding clenched fist syndrome and challenge the assumption it is always psychiatric in origin, via description of a case of clenched fist syndrome responsive to surgical nerve decompression. Methods: An unusual case of clenched fist syndrome is reviewed and discussed. Results: A child presenting with clenched fist syndrome failed conservative measures consisting of formal hand therapy, multidisciplinary pain management, and psychiatric treatment. On clinical examination, she had findings consistent with median nerve entrapment. After undergoing surgical decompression of the median nerve in the forearm and carpal tunnel, the clenched fist resolved immediately. Conclusions: Nerve compression may be an unrecognized factor underlying some cases of clenched fist syndrome. Evaluation by a hand surgeon or a hand therapist skilled in the detection of peripheral nerve entrapment or injury should be considered as part of the workup for this rare disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP31-NP36
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • arthritis
  • diagnosis
  • hand therapy
  • nerve
  • nerve compression
  • nerve injury
  • pain
  • pain management
  • pediatric
  • posttraumatic
  • psychosocial
  • research and health outcomes
  • specialty
  • specialty
  • surgery


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