Frequence, threat factors, and clinical supplements of ulnar roadway occlusion in the general population

Author(s): Patrick H Carpentier


Occlusion of the ulnar artery is found in a substantial proportion of elderly patients. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of ulnar artery occlusion in a sample of the general population of France, look for its risk factors, and evaluate its clinical correlates.


This study was an offshoot of a cross-sectional epidemiologic study in the general population of four locations in France (Tarentaise, Grenoble, Nylons, and Toulon). In phase I, random samples of 2000 individuals per location aged ≥18 years old were interviewed by phone for screening of Raynaud phenomenon. In phase II, subsamples of individuals were invited to a medical interview and physical examination where the presence of Raynaud phenomenon and occupational risk factors were recorded and a bilateral clinical Allen test was performed for the detection of ulnar artery occlusion. Phase II comprised 688 women and 335 men.


In 36 men and seven women, at least one occluded ulnar artery was found. The estimated prevalence was 9.6% in men and 1.0% in women (P < .001). The occluded artery was more often in the dominant hand of both men (8.1% vs 2.4%; P < .001) and women (0.9% vs 0.4%; P = .34). Ulnar artery occlusion was found more often in men aged >50 years (16.4%) than in younger men (1.4%; P < .001). Besides age, male sex, and dominant side, the only independent risk factor was an occupational exposure in men to repeated palmar trauma, with a significant quantitative relationship in the frequency of the impacts (P < .001) and the duration of the exposure (P < .001). Exposures to hand-held vibrating tools and cigarette smoking did not show a significant relationship in the multivariate analysis. Most individuals with ulnar artery occlusion did not have associated complaints; however, the diagnostic criteria for Raynaud phenomenon was validated in 13 of the 36 affected men. The association remained significant after adjusting for occupational exposure to vibrating tools. One individual reported a previous episode consistent with an attack of permanent digital ischemia.


This study confirms a substantial prevalence of ulnar artery occlusions in the general population, mostly in middle-aged and elderly men, which appears to be principally related to an occupational exposure to repeated occupational palmar trauma. Although there is a significant association with Raynaud phenomenon, most often the consequences of this occlusion remain subclinical.