Williams, H. J., Duncan, J. S., Grove-White, D. H. et al. 2020. Repeatability and feasibility of pressure algometry for quantifying mechanical nociceptive threshold in the thoracic region of calves. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7, 442.
Pressure algometry can be used to quantify mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT) in humans and animals. If reliable this may be a useful tool to examine calves for increased mechanical sensitivity, which may be induced by disease or pain. This study measures the repeatability and feasibility of pressure algometry using a handheld digital pressure algometer (PRODPlus, Top Cat metrology) using three serial measurements applied to six sites on the thoraces of 35 healthy calves by two different operators. The range of MNTs recorded in healthy calves was 1.2–25 Newtons (median = 10.1 IQR = 7.1–14.0). A multivariable mixed effects model identified that the MNT's recorded were influenced by Operator, Site, and Calf. Intra and inter-operator reliability were measured by intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs). Based on average ICCs, intra-operator reliability at two sites was good; one site overlying the ventral aspect of the 6th intercostal space [ICC = 0.79 95% CI (0.63–0.89)] and the other overlying the dorsal aspect of the 9th intercostal space [ICC = 0.75 95% CI (0.56–0.87)]. Average ICCs for three other measurement sites were moderate or poor, and one site proved unfeasible. For inter-operator agreement average ICCs showed that agreement was also good at the same 6 and 9th intercostal space, [ICCs = 0.77 95% CI (0.35–0.90) and 0.77 95% CI (0.54–0.88), respectively], agreement was moderate for the remainder of the sites. This study identifies two sites that are potentially useful for monitoring of thoracic sensitivity as an indicator of pain in calves by means of pressure algometry using the average of three measurements. It also identifies sources of variability to be considered when applying the tool for clinical or research purposes.