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Open Access Research article

Reliability of the standard goniometry and diagrammatic recording of finger joint angles: a comparative study with healthy subjects and non-professional raters

Valdas Macionis

Author Affiliations

Clinic of Rheumatology, Orthopaedics and Traumatology, and Reconstructive Surgery, Vilnius University Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius, Lithuania

Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Centre of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Vilnius University Hospital Santariskiu Klinikos, Vilnius, Lithuania

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-17

Published: 9 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Diagrammatic recording of finger joint angles by using two criss-crossed paper strips can be a quick substitute to the standard goniometry. As a preliminary step toward clinical validation of the diagrammatic technique, the current study employed healthy subjects and non-professional raters to explore whether reliability estimates of the diagrammatic goniometry are comparable with those of the standard procedure.

Methods

The study included two procedurally different parts, which were replicated by assigning 24 medical students to act interchangeably as 12 subjects and 12 raters. A larger component of the study was designed to compare goniometers side-by-side in measurement of finger joint angles varying from subject to subject. In the rest of the study, the instruments were compared by parallel evaluations of joint angles similar for all subjects in a situation of simulated change of joint range of motion over time. The subjects used special guides to position the joints of their left ring finger at varying angles of flexion and extension. The obtained diagrams of joint angles were converted to numerical values by computerized measurements. The statistical approaches included calculation of appropriate intraclass correlation coefficients, standard errors of measurements, proportions of measurement differences of 5 or less degrees, and significant differences between paired observations.

Results

Reliability estimates were similar for both goniometers. Intra-rater and inter-rater intraclass correlation coefficients ranged from 0.69 to 0.93. The corresponding standard errors of measurements ranged from 2.4 to 4.9 degrees. Repeated measurements of a considerable number of raters fell within clinically non-meaningful 5 degrees of each other in proportions comparable with a criterion value of 0.95. Data collected with both instruments could be similarly interpreted in a simulated situation of change of joint range of motion over time.

Conclusions

The paper goniometer and the standard goniometer can be used interchangeably by non-professional raters for evaluation of normal finger joints. The obtained results warrant further research to assess clinical performance of the paper strip technique.