Purpose: To characterise clinical assessment methods for spasticity and/or its functional consequences in clinical patient populations at risk to suffer from spasticity.
Method: Systematic literature search and manual-based two-step review process of psychometric properties of clinical assessment scales for spasticity and associated phenomena, as well as of functional scales with an association with spasticity. Reviewed psychometric properties included internal consistency, interrater, intrarater as well as retest reliability, construct validity, ecological validity, and responsiveness.
Results: Until May 2003 electronic database searches established a reference pool of 4151 references of which 90 references contributed to the review objectives. An additional 20 references were identified by an informal reference search. Twenty-four clinical scales that assess spasticity and/or related phenomena as well as 10 scales for 'active function' and three scales for 'passive function' with an association with spasticity could be identified. Some evidence signals that a high interrater reliability of the Ashworth and modified Ashworth scales can be achieved, however not in all circumstances. For many scales, reliability data is, however, missing. This is especially true for test retest reliability. Information about construct validity can promote our understanding of what individual scales are likely to assess. Many scales have been able to document changes after therapeutic intervention.
Conclusions: The collated evidence can guide our clinical decision about when to use which scale and can promote evidence-based assessment of spasticity and related clinical phenomena.