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Open Access Research

Quantitative neurosensory findings, symptoms and signs in young vibration exposed workers

Lars Gerhardsson1*, Lage Burstrom2, Mats Hagberg1, Ronnie Lundstrom2 and Tohr Nilsson23

Author Affiliations

1 Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Box 414, Gothenburg, SE-405 30, Sweden

2 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Umea University, Umea, Sweden

3 Sundsvall Hospital, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sundsvall Hospital, Sundsvall, Sweden

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2013, 8:8  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-8-8

Published: 27 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Long-term exposure to hand-held vibrating tools may cause the hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) including vibration induced white fingers and sensorineural symptoms. The aim was to study early neurosensory effects by quantitative vibrotactile and monofilament tests in young workers with hand-held vibration exposure.

Methods

This cross-sectional study consisted of 142 young, male machine shop and construction workers with hand-held exposure to vibrating tools. They were compared with 41 non-vibration exposed subjects of the same age-group. All participants passed a structured interview, answered several questionnaires and had a physical examination including the determination of vibrotactile perception thresholds (VPTs) at two frequencies (31.5 and 125 Hz) and Semmes Weinstein’s Monofilament test.

Results

In the vibration exposed group 8% of the workers reported episodes of tingling sensations and 10% numbness in their fingers. Approximately 5–10% of the exposed population displayed abnormal results on monofilament tests. The vibrotactile testing showed significantly increased VPTs for 125 Hz in dig II bilaterally (right hand, p = 0.01; left hand, p = 0.024) in the vibration exposed group.

A multiple regression analysis (VPT - dependent variable; age, height, examiner and five different vibration dose calculations – predictor variables) in dig II bilaterally showed rather low R2-values. None of the explanatory variables including five separately calculated vibration doses were included in the models, neither for the total vibration exposed group, nor for the highest exposed quartile.

A logistic multiple regression analysis (result of monofilament testing - dependent variable; age, height, examiner and five vibration dose calculations – predictor variables) of the results of monofilament testing in dig II bilaterally gave a similar outcome. None of the independent variables including five calculated vibration doses were included in the models neither for the total exposed group nor for the highest exposed quartile.

Conclusion

In spite of the fairly short vibration exposure, a tendency to raised VPTs as well as pathologic monofilament test results was observed. Thus, early neurophysiologic symptoms and signs of vibration exposure may appear after short-term exposure also in young workers.

Keywords:
Vibration exposure; Neurophysiologic effects; Vibrotactile thresholds; Monofilament test