OBJECTIVES: To investigate changes in digital circulation during and after exposure to hand transmitted vibration. By studying two frequencies and two magnitudes of vibration, to investigate the extent to which haemodynamic changes depend on the vibration frequency, the vibration acceleration, and the vibration velocity. METHODS: Finger skin temperature (FST), finger blood flow (FBF), and finger systolic pressure were measured in the fingers of both hands in eight healthy men. Indices of digital vasomotor tone-such as critical closing pressure and vascular resistance-were estimated by pressure-flow curves obtained with different hand heights. With a static load of 10 N, the right hand was exposed for 30 minutes to each of the following root mean squared (rms) acceleration magnitudes and frequencies of vertical vibration: 22 m.s-2 at 31.5 Hz, 22 m.s-2 at 125 Hz, and 87 m.s-2 at 125 Hz. A control condition consisted of exposure to the static load only. The measures of digital circulation and vasomotor tone were taken before exposure to the vibration and the static load, and at 0, 20, 40, and 60 minutes after the end of each exposure. RESULTS: Exposure to static load caused no significant changes in FST, FBF, or indices of vasomotor tone in either the vibrated right middle finger or the non-vibrated left middle finger. In both fingers, exposure to vibration of 125 Hz and 22 m.s-2 produced a greater reduction in FBF and a greater increase in vasomotor tone than did vibration of 31.5 Hz and 22 m.s-2. In the vibrated right finger, exposure to vibration of 125 Hz and 87 m.s-2 provoked an immediate vasodilation which was followed by vasoconstriction during recovery. The non-vibrated left finger showed a significant increase in vasomotor tone throughout the 60 minute period after the end of vibration exposure. CONCLUSIONS: The digital circulatory response to acute vibration depends upon the magnitude and frequency of the vibration stimulus. Vasomotor mechanisms, mediated both centrally and locally, are involved in the reaction of digital vessels to acute vibration. The pattern of the haemodynamic changes in the fingers exposed to the vibration frequencies used in this study do not seem to support the frequency weighting assumed in the current international standard ISO 5349.
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