Work-related carpal tunnel syndrome (WR-CTS) in Massachusetts, 1992–1997: Source of WR-CTS, outcomes, and employer intervention practices

Authors

  • Helen Wellman MS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, Massachusetts
    2. Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
    3. Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
    • Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.
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  • Letitia Davis ScD,

    1. Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Laura Punnett ScD,

    1. Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
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  • Robin Dewey MPH

    1. Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Labor Occupational Health Program, University of California, Berkeley California
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  • Work was performed at Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Abstract

Background

The Massachusetts Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (MASS SENSOR) receives reports of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome (WR-CTS) cases from (1) workers' compensation (WC) disability claims for 5 or more lost work days; and (2) physician reports (PR).

Methods

From 1992 through 1997, 1,330 WC cases and 571 PR cases completed follow-back surveys to provide information on industry, occupation, attributed source of WR-CTS, outcomes, and employer intervention practices.

Results

Sixty-four percent of the respondents had bilateral CTS and 61% had surgery, both of which were proportionally more frequent among WC cases. Office and business machinery was the leading source of WR-CTS (42% of classifiable sources) in every economic sector except construction, followed by hand tools (20%). Managers and professional specialty workers were the most likely to report employers' interventions and were up to four times more likely to report equipment or work environment changes than higher risk groups.

Conclusions

State-based surveillance data on the source of WR-CTS provided valuable information on how and where to implement interventions. New occurrences of WR-CTS are likely, especially in the highest risk industries where very few cases reported primary prevention measures (e.g., changes to equipment or work environment) implemented by their employers. Am. J. Ind. Med. 45:139–152, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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