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Pain in the hand affects an estimated 12–21% of the population, and at older ages the hand is one of the most common sites of pain and osteoarthritis. The association between symptomatic hand osteoarthritis and disability in everyday life has not been studied in detail, although there is evidence that older people with hand problems suffer significant pain and disability. Despite the high prevalence of hand problems and the limitations they cause in older adults, little attention has been paid to the hand by health planners and policy makers. We plan to conduct a prospective, population-based, observational cohort study designed in parallel with our previously reported cohort study of knee pain, to describe the course of musculoskeletal hand problems in older adults and investigate the relative merits of different approaches to classification and defining prognosis.
All adults aged 50 years and over registered with two general practices in North Staffordshire will be invited to take part in a two-stage postal survey. Respondents to the survey who indicate that they have experienced hand pain or problems within the previous 12 months will be invited to attend a research clinic for a detailed assessment. This will consist of clinical interview, hand assessment, screening test of lower limb function, digital photography, plain x-rays, anthropometric measurement and brief self-complete questionnaire. All consenting clinic attenders will be followed up by (i) general practice medical record review, (ii) repeat postal questionnaire at 18-months, and (iii) repeat postal questionnaire at 3 years.
This paper describes the protocol for the Clinical Assessment Study of the Hand (CAS-HA), a prospective, population-based, observational cohort study of community-dwelling older adults with hand pain and hand problems based in North Staffordshire.
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