OBJECTIVES: To determine prevalence and incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in a modern meat packing plant. The secondary objective was to explore the relation between ethnicity and CTS. METHODS: Six hundred and sixty five workers were interviewed and examined to find the prevalence of CTS. Subsequently, 421 workers without CTS were followed up and examined at a median interval of 253 days; of those, 333 remained without CTS and were again examined at a median interval of 148 days. RESULTS: The prevalence and incidence of CTS was 21% and 11/100 person-years, respectively. The incidence for Asian mixed, white, and other ethnicities was 12.0, 12.2, and 7.2 cases/100 person-years, respectively. The observed incidence for men and women was 9.7 and 18.4 cases/100 person-years, respectively. This difference was not quite significant (p = 0.068) with an estimated relative risk (women v men) of 1.9 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.9 to 3.8). The interaction between sex and use of tools was significant (p = 0.04), however, although the relative risk for CTS in women who used tools was 4.2 the numbers were small and not significant. The relative risk for men who used tools was 0.64 and not significant. The percentage of incident cases with comorbid disease was only 6.3% (3/47). CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence and incidence of CTS in this workforce were higher than in the general population. However, the prevalence of CTS in this modern, mechanised plant was not significantly different from that reported in older plants. No relation was found between ethnicity, age, body mass index, and CTS for either prevalence or incidence. Comorbid disease among the cases of CTS is significantly less than that found in other industry.
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