Measuring Disability of the Upper Extremity

Objective: Many existing upper extremity outcome measures have been designed for a specific anatomic site (e.g., shoulder) or a specific disease entity (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome). The purpose of this paper is to examine whether questionnaire items taken from very specific measures are considered relevant only to that specific region or are applicable to the whole extremity. Methods: Fifteen practicing clinicians categorized a sample of 132 items from existing questionnaires according to whether the items reflected disability specific to an anatomic site or were relevant to the whole extremity. Results: Seventy-two percent of the items were categorized as relevant to the extremity as a whole, while only 21% of the items were categorized as specific to an anatomic site. Conclusion: Items in existing specific upper extremity questionnaires are also relevant to other regions and conditions. This finding is in agreement with kinesioligc and biomechanical theories that the upper extremity acts as a single functional unit. Questionnaires designed for the whole extremity could provide a more practical and still valid measure of upper extremity disability.

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