A prospective study of the cold response of digital vessels in forestry workers exposed to saw vibration

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1998 Oct;71(7):493-8. doi: 10.1007/s004200050311.


Objectives: To investigate the occurrence of vibration-induced white finger (VWF) and the cold response of digital vessels in a group of 68 forestry workers who underwent a first clinical examination in 1990 and were then reexamined in 1995.

Methods: The forestry workers were divided into three groups: group A (n = 27), active workers who did not have VWF in 1990 and continued to use chain saws; group B (n = 29), workers who did not have VWF in 1990 and retired before 1995; and group C (n = 12), active or retired workers who had VWF in 1990. The subjects underwent a medical interview, a complete physical examination, and a cold provocation test, which were performed by the same physicians at both surveys. The cold test consisted of measurement of the finger systolic blood pressure (FSBP) after local cooling to 10 degrees C, expressed as a percentage of the pressure recorded at 30 degrees C (FSBP%10 degrees).

Results: Three new cases of VWF occurred during the follow-up period among workers who had used only antivibration (AV) chain saws. The vasoconstrictor response to cold was unchanged in group A and improved in group B (P < 0.001). A significant decrease in VWF symptoms and abnormal response to cold was observed in group C (P < 0.05). As a result of preventive measures curtailing saw usage time in the VWF workers, the daily vibration exposure in group C was lower in 1995 than in 1990 (P = 0.02). In the retired workers, FSBP%10 degrees was positively related to the time since the cessation of work with chain saws (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: The findings of this follow-up study indicate that a reduction in or cessation of exposure to vibration has a beneficial effect on finger-blanching symptoms and the cold response of digital vessels. The occurrence of new cases of VWF in subjects whose work experience was limited to AV chain saws argues for the maintenance of health surveillance in these workers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Constriction, Pathologic
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • Forestry*
  • Gloves, Protective
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Plethysmography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vibration / adverse effects*