Developing a pooled job physical exposure data set from multiple independent studies: an example of a consortium study of carpal tunnel syndrome
Background Six research groups independently conducted prospective studies of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) incidence in 54 US workplaces in 10 US States. Physical exposure variables were collected by all research groups at the individual worker level. Data from these research groups were pooled to increase the exposure spectrum and statistical power.
Objective This paper provides a detailed description of the characteristics of the pooled physical exposure variables and the source data information from the individual research studies.
Methods Physical exposure data were inspected and prepared by each of the individual research studies according to detailed instructions provided by an exposure subcommittee of the research consortium. Descriptive analyses were performed on the pooled physical exposure data set. Correlation analyses were performed among exposure variables estimating similar exposure aspects.
Results At baseline, there were a total of 3010 participants in the pooled physical exposure data set. Overall, the pooled data meaningfully increased the spectra of most exposure variables. The increased spectra were due to the wider range in exposure data of different jobs provided by the research studies. The correlations between variables estimating similar exposure aspects showed different patterns among data provided by the research studies.
Conclusions The increased spectra of the physical exposure variables among the data pooled likely improved the possibility of detecting potential associations between these physical exposure variables and CTS incidence. It is also recognised that methods need to be developed for general use by all researchers for standardisation of physical exposure variable definition, data collection, processing and reduction.