Prevalence, risk factors, and clinical correlates of ulnar artery occlusion in the general population

J Vasc Surg. 2009 Dec;50(6):1333-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2009.07.076. Epub 2009 Oct 17.


Background: Occlusion of the ulnar artery is found in a substantial proportion of elderly patients. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of ulnar artery occlusion in a sample of the general population of France, look for its risk factors, and evaluate its clinical correlates.

Methods: This study was an offshoot of a cross-sectional epidemiologic study in the general population of four locations in France (Tarentaise, Grenoble, Nyons, and Toulon). In phase I, random samples of 2000 individuals per location aged >or=18 years old were interviewed by phone for screening of Raynaud phenomenon. In phase II, subsamples of individuals were invited to a medical interview and physical examination where the presence of Raynaud phenomenon and occupational risk factors were recorded and a bilateral clinical Allen test was performed for the detection of ulnar artery occlusion. Phase II comprised 688 women and 335 men.

Results: In 36 men and seven women, at least one occluded ulnar artery was found. The estimated prevalence was 9.6% in men and 1.0% in women (P < .001). The occluded artery was more often in the dominant hand of both men (8.1% vs 2.4%; P < .001) and women (0.9% vs 0.4%; P = .34). Ulnar artery occlusion was found more often in men aged >50 years (16.4%) than in younger men (1.4%; P < .001). Besides age, male sex, and dominant side, the only independent risk factor was an occupational exposure in men to repeated palmar trauma, with a significant quantitative relationship in the frequency of the impacts (P < .001) and the duration of the exposure (P < .001). Exposures to hand-held vibrating tools and cigarette smoking did not show a significant relationship in the multivariate analysis. Most individuals with ulnar artery occlusion did not have associated complaints; however, the diagnostic criteria for Raynaud phenomenon was validated in 13 of the 36 affected men. The association remained significant after adjusting for occupational exposure to vibrating tools. One individual reported a previous episode consistent with an attack of permanent digital ischemia.

Conclusion: This study confirms a substantial prevalence of ulnar artery occlusions in the general population, mostly in middle-aged and elderly men, which appears to be principally related to an occupational exposure to repeated occupational palmar trauma. Although there is a significant association with Raynaud phenomenon, most often the consequences of this occlusion remain subclinical.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / complications
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / etiology
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / physiopathology
  • Constriction, Pathologic
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / complications
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Raynaud Disease / epidemiology*
  • Raynaud Disease / etiology
  • Raynaud Disease / physiopathology
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Ulnar Artery* / physiopathology
  • Vibration / adverse effects