Objective: This study investigated the relation between vibration exposure, the prevalence of white fingers, and the cold response of digital arterial vessels in workers using vibrating tools.
Methods: The change in finger systolic blood pressure (FSBP) at 15 and 10 degrees C as the percentage of the pressure at 30 degrees C (FSBP%) was measured in 455 healthy referents and 822 workers exposed to hand-transmitted vibration. Exposure to hand-transmitted vibration was assessed in terms of 8-hour energy-equivalent frequency-weighted acceleration [A(8)] and total operating time with vibrating tools.
Results: The prevalence of white fingers was 1.1% for the referents and ranged from 9.0% to 51.6% for the vibration-exposed groups. The estimated mean value of A(8) ranged between 1.6 (referents) and 8.3 (quarry drillers) m/s2. After adjustment for age, smoking, and drinking habits, the FSBP% was significantly lower in the vibration-exposed groups than in the reference group. Groupwise, the FSBP%(10 degrees) was inversely related to the prevalence of white fingers, the estimated A(8), and total operating time. With FSBP%(10 degrees) <70% or <60% as the lower normal limit, the sensitivity of the cold test varied from 86% to 100%, with a specificity of 90% to 94%, and a positive predictive value of 68% to 74%.
Conclusions: FSBP measurement during cold provocation is a useful laboratory test for white fingers. A quantitative relationship between cold-induced digital arterial hyperresponsiveness and occupational exposure to hand-transmitted vibration was suggested.