Can Dupuytren's contracture be work-related?: review of the evidence

Am J Ind Med. 1996 May;29(5):521-32. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0274(199605)29:5<521::AID-AJIM12>3.0.CO;2-2.


Dupuytren's contracture (DC) is a disease of the palmar fascia resulting in thickening and contracture of fibrous bands on the palmar surface of the hands and fingers. For decades, a controversy has existed regarding whether acute traumatic injury or cumulative biomechanical work exposure can contribute to the development of this disorder. To address this controversy, this review considers the following questions: Is there evidence that DC is associated with 1) frequent or repetitive manual work; and 2) hand vibration? The published literature was searched for studies meeting the following criteria: 1) in English or having an English abstract; 2) controlled studies; 3) DC an identified health outcome studied; and 4) the study group exposed to repetitive or frequent manual work, vibration, or acute traumatic injury. Relevant non-English articles identified through English abstracts were translated. The validity of studies meeting the selection criteria was assessed using a series of questions adapted from those of Stock [1991: Am J Ind Med 19:87-107]. Studies that met a priori minimum levels of methodologic quality were taken into account to reach conclusions with respect to the above questions. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for each study. Ten studies met the initial selection criteria. Of these, four studies met the criteria for methodologic quality, one addressing the relationship between manual work and DC, and three studies of vibration and DC. No controlled studies of acute trauma and DC were identified. Bennett [1982: Br J Ind Med 39:98-100] found the prevalence of DC at a British PVC bagging and packing plant in which workers were exposed to repetitive manual work to be 5.5 times that at a local plant without packing, and twice the expected prevalence in a U.K. working population previously studied by Early [1962: J Bone Joint Surg 44B:602-613]. DC was observed more frequently among vibration white finger claimants than controls by Thomas and Clarke [1992: J Soc Occup Med 42:155-158] (OR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.1-3-9), and more frequently among vibration-exposed workers than controls by Bovenzi et al. [1994: Occup Environ Med 51:603-611] (OR, 2.6 95% CI, 1.2-5.5). Cocco et al [1987: Med Lav 78:386-392] found that a history of vibration exposure occurred more frequently among cases of DC than among controls (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.5-4.4). The latter two studies presented some evidence of a dose-response relationship. There is good support for an association between vibration exposure and DC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / complications
  • Dupuytren Contracture / diagnosis
  • Dupuytren Contracture / etiology*
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases* / etiology
  • Vibration / adverse effects