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Sternal skin conductance: a reasonable surrogate for hot flash measurement?

Pachman, Deirdre R. MD; Loprinzi, Charles L. MD; Novotny, Paul J. MS; Satele, Daniel V. BS; Linquist, Breanna M. RN; Wolf, Sherry RN, MS; Barton, Debra L. RN, PhD

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31828cec53
Original Study

Objective This study aims to examine the accuracy of a new sternal skin conductance (SSC) device in measuring hot flashes and to assess the acceptability of the device by women.

Methods Three small descriptive pilot studies were performed using two sequential prototypes of the SSC device developed by an engineering device company in the Midwest. The devices were worn either in a monitored setting for 24 hours or in an ambulatory setting for 5 weeks. During the study period, women recorded hot flashes in a prospective hot flash diary and answered questions about the acceptability of wearing the SSC device.

Results The first prototype was not able to collect any analyzable skin conductance data owing to various malfunction issues, including poor conductance and battery failure. However, 16 women wore the device for 5 weeks and reported that wearing the device was acceptable, although 31% stated that it interfered with daily activities. Hot flash data from the second prototype revealed a 24% concordance rate between self-reported and device-recorded hot flashes.

Conclusions Findings from these studies support discordance between device-recorded and self-reported hot flashes. In addition, the studies reveal further limitations of SSC monitoring, including difficulties with data collection and lack of consistency in interpretation. Based on these results and other recent trials identifying issues with SSC methodology, it is time to find a better physiologic surrogate measure for hot flashes.

From the 1Department of Oncology and 2Cancer Center Statistics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Received December 10, 2012; revised and accepted February 12, 2013.

Funding/support: This study was supported by National Institutes of Health grant R43 EB 06013 (“Ambulatory Sternal Skin Conductance Recording Tool”), National Institutes of Health grant R43 AT004075 (“Self-Reported Menopausal Symptomatology and Wireless Skin Conductance Recorder”), National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant UL1 TR000135, and National Institutes of Health grant CA 124477.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Debra L. Barton, RN, PhD, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905. E-mail:

© 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.