Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments: a simple, effective and inexpensive screening device for identifying diabetic patients at risk of foot ulceration

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1991 Aug;13(1-2):63-7. doi: 10.1016/0168-8227(91)90034-b.


Both vibration perception threshold (VPT) by biothesiometry and pressure perception using Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments (filaments) have been proposed to identify diabetic patients at risk of foot ulceration. The two methods were compared in 182 subjects attending a national patients conference. Both measures were made over the great toe. Filaments of three calibres were used: 4.17, 5.07 and 6.10 bending with 1, 10 and 75 g force, respectively. Pressure perception was normal (4.17) in 122 patients (group 1) whereas in 45 patients it was grade 5.07 (group 2) and 6.10 or greater in 15 (group 3). The corresponding mean VPT (+/- SD) for the three groups were 10.6 (+/- 6.7), 22.8 (+/- 12.7) and 32 (+/- 14.3), respectively. The mean VPT for the 3 groups were significantly different (P less than 0.001). The filaments were more sensitive (100%) but less specific (77.7%) in identifying patients who had foot ulcers compared to biothesiometry which was less sensitive (78.6%) but more specific (93.4%). The filaments are therefore reliable and may be superior to biothesiometry in screening for patients at risk of foot ulceration since sensitivity is the more important parameter. In addition, they are inexpensive (12 pounds) compared to the biothesiometer (400 pounds) and are simple and easy to use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Foot Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Touch
  • Vibration