OBJECTIVES: The main objective was to study the acute vascular effects in the hands of normal healthy subjects of a complex vibration spectrum similar to that generated by many industrial hand held tools. The effects of repeated bouts of vibrations and alterations in the intensity of vibration were also studied. METHODS: Blood flow was measured by venous occlusion plethysmography with strain gauges. Vibration across a frequency range of 0.4 to > 4000 Hz was generated by a pneumatic chisel and applied to the right hand. Blood flow was measured in both middle fingers, both big toes, or both forearms before, during, and after a two minute period of vibration. Systolic pressure of a finger and heart rate were also measured. RESULTS: Vibration was associated with a significant bilateral reduction in finger and toe blood flow (P < 0.01 and P < 0.03) and a significant increase in heart rate (P < 0.05) but had no effect on forearm blood flow. The finger response was not abolished by repeated bouts of the vibration but was initially most notable during the first minute of vibration. Increasing the intensity of vibration delayed recovery. CONCLUSIONS: Hand vibration causes a generalised increase in sympathetic tone in the heart and extremities. This may be a factor in the development of vasospastic disease in habitual users of hand held industrial vibrating tools.
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