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Semmes-Weinstein monofilament: A tool to quantify skin sensation in macular lesions for leprosy diagnosis

Introduction: Hypochromatic macules with altered sensitivity are the first manifestations of skin leprosy. Validation of this sensory loss assists in the confirmation of the clinical diagnosis. Aims: The aim of the study was to quantify the loss of sensation in leprosy lesions using the Semmes-Weinstein monofilament to strengthen the clinical diagnosis mainly of macular forms. Methods: Seventy-four hypochromatic macules in the macular leprosy subgroup, 27 typical borderline leprosy subgroup lesions and 49 macules of other macular dermatoses (non-leprosy group) were evaluated using the 0.05 g force Semmes-Weinstein monofilament to quantify the alteration of sensitivity within and outside of the lesions. The esthesiometric change index was established as the total number of points with altered sensation divided by the total number of tested points within the lesions to calculate the internal esthesiometric change index and outside the lesions to calculate the peripheral esthesiometric change index; these indexes were calculated for all groups. The difference (Δ) between the esthesiometric change indices of the lesional area and the adjacent skin was calculated for the leprosy and nonleprosy groups. Results: The percentage of points with touch sensitivity alterations within the macular and typical borderline leprosy lesions was higher in leprosy than in the non-leprosy group. The borderline and macular leprosy presented higher esthesiometric change index within injured areas than outside injured areas or in the nonleprosy group (P < 0.005). When internal esthesiometric change index values in the macular and borderline leprosy groups were higher than 0.53 and 0.5, respectively, the receiver operating characteristic curve showed 98% sensitivity and approximately 99% specificity for both groups (P < 0.0001). Regarding the difference between indices, borderline and macular leprosy had values that were higher and closer to one than in the nonleprosy group (P < 0.0001), with 100% sensitivity and 96.5% specificity for leprosy diagnosis when ΔLG was higher than 0.34. A limitation was the inability to perform a double-blind study. Conclusion: Semmes-Weinstein esthesiometry is a simple, useful and low-cost tool to quantify the focal alteration of cutaneous sensitivity to improve clinical leprosy diagnosis, especially for macular lesions.

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Journal Article
Frade MAC
Bernardes Filho F
Spencer JS
Foss NT
Year of Publication
Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology
Number of Pages
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