Background: After chicken pox, the herpes varicella-zoster (HVZ) virus may remain dormant in the dorsal root ganglion until later reactivation causes shingles, characterized by painful dysesthesias and cutaneous vesicular eruptions along a unilateral dermatome. Shingles as a work-related injury has not been previously addressed in the medical literature. Case History We present a 50-year old female hospital employee who, while working, sustained an acute, traumatic hyperextension injury to her right wrist, hand, and fingers. Although she initially responded to treatment for flexor tendinitis, she suddenly developed shingles in the right C5-C6 dermatomes. She was treated with famcyclovir and her skin lesions resolved, but post-herpetic neuralgia persisted.
Conclusions: It was felt that her shingles was causally related to her occupational injury since trauma (previously reported to precipitate shingles) was her only risk factor and the timing and location of the lesions corresponded closely to the occupational injury. In addition to appropriately diagnosing and treating their patients, workers' compensation physicians often must determine if a particular condition was caused by the original work-related incident. Clinicians who treat trauma patients and injured workers should be aware of post-traumatic shingles and understand the causal relationship of this uncommon but clinically important phenomenon.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.