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American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Vol. 56, Iss. 8, August 2013

Carpal tunnel syndrome among ewe dairy farmers in Sardinia, Italy


Background The region of Sardinia, Italy is known internationally for the production of cheeses made from ewe's milk. Although the use of automated milking equipment is available in ewe dairy operations, traditional hand milking is still performed on many ewe farms. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) among farmers that manually milk ewes.

Methods Worker demographics, upper limb symptoms, and electrophysiologic studies were obtained on 76 ewe farmers recruited from a random sample of 109 in northern Sardinia. Characteristic hand symptoms and electrophysiologic studies were used in the case definition of CTS.

Results Of the 76 farmers evaluated, 42 (55.3%) fit the case definition of CTS in at least one hand. Assuming that all non-respondents did not have CTS, the CTS prevalence ratio would have been 38.5% (42/109) among the randomized sample of ewe farmers.

Conclusions These findings suggest that CTS is a significant occupational health issue for ewe farmers that continue the traditional methods of manual milking. The recent trend in automated ewe milking machines may help reduce the prevalence of CTS among the next generation of Italian ewe farmers.


Agriculture, carpal tunnel syndrome, epidemiology, occupational

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