Among miners/ex-miners with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) compensation claims, 15.2 percent were also diagnosed as having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) in a study by Burke et al. CTS prevalence was higher in this group than the general adult male population (0.6% to 18% according to studies following variable criteria) suggesting that segmental vibration is a risk factor for CTS or provokes CTS symptoms.
Physicians evaluated 26,842 miners/ex-miners with suspected HAVS. They also examined the subjects for CTS by applying a clinical exam (region/nature of symptoms, Tinel’s test, Pahlen’s test, abductor pollicis brevis observation). Neither nerve conduction studies nor diagnostic steroid injections were performed. The authors felt that nerve conduction studies poorly differentiate CTS from HAVS.
HAVS was diagnosed in 83.1 percent of the subjects while 15.6 percent had CTS. CTS alone was found among 0.4 percent of the miners/ex-miners and 1.3 percent had neither HAVS or CTS. The authors note their study was weakened by the element of financial gain among the subjects. A well-informed miner/ex-miner could provide inaccurate but convincing subjective symptoms to receive a CTS/HAVS diagnosis and inflate their personal claim value. Hence, the reported prevalence of HAVS and CTS would also be inflated.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-04-13.