Self-reported cold sensitivity in normal subjects and in patients with traumatic hand injuries or hand-arm vibration syndrome
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Background: Cold sensitivity is a common and disabling complaint following hand injuries. The main purpose of this study was to describe self-reported consequences of cold sensitivity and the association with disability and health-related quality of life in patients with hand injuries or hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and in normal subjects. Methods: Responses to the Cold Intolerance Symptom Severity (CISS) questionnaire, Potential Work Exposure Scale (PWES), Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) and Short-Form 36 questionnaire (SF-36) were investigated in normal subjects (n = 94), hand injured patients (amputation and nerve injuries, n = 88) and patients with HAVS (n = 30). The results are presented as median (range), percent and mean deviation from norms. The Kruskal Wallis Test or Mann-Whitney U-Test were used to identify significant differences between multiple groups or subgroups. The Spearman rank correlation was used to study the relationship between cold sensitivity and disability. Results: Abnormal cold sensitivity (CISS score > 50) was seen in 75% and 45% of patients with HAVS and a traumatic hand injury, respectively. Patients were significantly more exposed to cold in their work environment than the normal population, with a consequently negative effect on work ability due to cold sensitivity. Patients with abnormal cold sensitivity were more seriously disabled and had a poorer health-related quality of life than patients with normal cold sensitivity [higher DASH scores and e. g. significantly larger mean deviation from norms in the subscales Role Physical and Bodily Pain (SF-36)]. Conclusion: Severe and abnormal cold sensitivity may have a profound impact on work capacity, leisure, disability and health-related quality of life. It is frequently seen in patients with traumatic hand injuries and particularly apparent in patients with HAVS.