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Clinical Research

Variability in vibration perception threshold among sites: a potential source of error in biothesiometry

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 23 January 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:233
  1. Gareth Williams,
  2. Jaswinder S Gill,
  3. Vic Aber,
  4. Hugh M Mather


    Vibration perception threshold was measured with a biothesiometer by a single observer at both medial malleoli and both big toes in 110 diabetic patients aged 15-65 selected at random and in 64 non-diabetic subjects aged 20-65. The vibration perception threshold showed appreciable individual variation both between contralateral sites and between ipsilateral sites, differing by at least 30% between the big toes in 26 (24%) of the diabetic patients and 16 (25%) of the non-diabetic group. Variability between sites was significantly greater in the diabetics than the normal subjects. The vibration perception threshold exceeded published normal values at one or more sites in 22 of the diabetic patients but at all four sites in only four.

    The wide variability in vibration perception threshold among sites may be due to the tissue characteristics locally and, in diabetic patients, possibly to asymmetric neuropathy. Biothesiometer readings at single or unilateral sites may be unrepresentative or misleading.