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Rhizarthrosis in banknote processing workers: a retrospective cohort study

27 Sep 2017

AbstractBackgroundRhizarthrosis, or osteoarthritis of the base of the thumb, is a common condition affecting 10–30% of the population over the age of 60. Whether it is an occupational disease has been the subject of debate as epidemiological studies on the correlation between physical stress and the presence of rhizarthrosis have shown conflicting results.AimsTo study the correlation between the prevalence of rhizarthrosis and the time spent by employees manually processing banknotes at the National Bank of Belgium (NBB).MethodsWe followed NBB employees currently or previously holding job titles involving the manual or automated processing of banknotes. Each participant’s job history was carefully reconstructed and the number of months holding certain job titles determined. Each participant was clinically and radiologically examined for the presence of rhizarthrosis in both hands. Its presence was scored by a combination of clinical and radiological criteria.ResultsThere were 195 participants. The prevalence of rhizarthrosis was 27% in women (mean age: 52.3 ± 4.4 years) and 17% in men (mean age: 53.2). The odds ratio (OR) for rhizarthrosis after 10 years’ full-time overall exposure was significantly higher [OR 10 years: 1.53 (1.03–2.28)]. However, one particular job, ‘manual counting’, described by participants as highly straining and severely taxing on the thumbs, did not show a significantly higher prevalence of rhizarthrosis.ConclusionsOur study confirmed the correlation between the presence of rhizarthrosis and age, gender and general manual labour, in particular banknote processing, but found no link with one specific job—manual counting.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Occupational Medicine