Men are more susceptible than women to direct pressure on unmyelinated ulnar nerve fibers

Robert C. Morell, Richard C. Prielipp, Timothy N. Harwood, Robert L. James, John F. Butterworth

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18 Scopus citations


Ulnar nerve injury, the most common form of perioperative peripheral nerve injury, has a 3:1 male/female predominance. Neither the mechanism of perioperative ulnar nerve injury nor the reasons for the increased male susceptibility are well understood. We used an experimental model with arm flexion at the elbow, direct pressure on the ulnar nerve, and arm ischemia as distinct stress mechanisms to induce adverse changes in ulnar current perception thresholds (CPTs) on 3 groups of 40 male and 40 female volunteers (a total of 240 volunteers). CPT measurements were repeated at 2000-, 250-, and 5-Hz stimulating frequencies, specific to A-β, A-δ, and unmyelinated C-fibers, respectively. Ischemia produced significant increases in CPT with all three stimulating frequencies, and there were no detectable differences between men and women. Flexion failed to produce significant CPT increases at any of the three stimulating frequencies, with no sex-based differences. Direct pressure produced significant CPT increases at 5 and 250 Hz, indicating inhibition of both unmyelinated C-fibers and myelinated A-δ fibers. C-fibers, but not A-δ fibers, demonstrated sex differences with direct pressure; there was a 1.7-fold (95% confidence interval, 1.2- to 2.4-fold) greater effect in men. Ischemia significantly inhibited the function of all three fiber types, perhaps sufficient to overwhelm gender differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1188
Number of pages6
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


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