Possible sources of discrepancies in the use of the Semmes-Weinstein monofilament: Impact on prevalence of insensate foot and workload requirements

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Authors: McGill,M.;Molyneaux,L.;Spencer,R.;Heng,L. F.;Yue,D. K.

Publication:  Diabetes Care

Year: 1999

Volume: 22

Issue: 4

Start Page: 598


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of different testing sites and buckling strengths on the sensitivity and specificity of using the Semmes-Weinstein monofilament to detect patients with insensate foot. The impact on workload required to educate and follow up these high-risk individuals was estimated by modeling in our patient population with a documented status of neuropathy.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Using the 5.07/10-g monofilament, one observer tested 132 randomly selected subjects with diabetes at five sites on the right foot. The sensitivity and specificity of each site and combinations of sites in detecting vibration perception threshold > 40 was calculated. In addition, two monofilaments, one with a buckling force of 5 g and the other with a force of 15 g, were compared by testing 200 randomly selected patients. An estimate of the prevalence of insensate foot and workload was made by modeling the findings to the 5,270 patients with neuropathy status registered on our computerized database.

RESULTS: Specificity of the 5.07/10-g monofilament to detect insensate foot at each of the five sites is high, at approximately 90%, but there is considerably more variation and lower sensitivity, ranging from 44-71%. Data derived from the use of different combinations of sites showed that more stringent criteria are associated with lower sensitivity but higher specificity. If the foot is considered insensate when either of sites 3 and 4 (plantar aspect of the first and fifth metatarsal heads, respectively) cannot feel the monofilament, there is reasonable sensitivity and specificity (80-86%, respectively). By modeling on our diabetes center population, it can be demonstrated that the choice of different methodologies leads to different conclusions about the prevalence of severe neuropathy, ranging from 3.4 to 29.3%.

CONCLUSIONS: Using a combination of sites 3 and 4 for monofilament testing gives a reasonable compromise for time, sensitivity, and specificity. Minor changes in sensitivity and specificity can lead to major changes in the prevalence of neuropathy, with implications for workload.

  • Listing ID: 4452
  • Author/s: McGill,M.;Molyneaux,L.;Spencer,R.;Heng,L. F.;Yue,D. K.
  • Publication: Diabetes Care
  • Year: 1999
  • Volume: 22
  • Issue: 4
  • Start Page: 598
  • Article Keywords: Australia/epidemiology;Cohort Studies;Diabetic Foot/diagnosis/epidemiology;Diabetic Neuropathies/complications/diagnosis;Equipment Design;Foot/innervation;Humans;Neurologic Examination/instrumentation;Prevalence;Reference Values;Sensitivity and Specificity;Sensory Thresholds;Stress, Mechanical;Touch;Vibration