Study design: Multi-center, prospective, cohort study.
Objectives: To assess the validity and reliability of the Spinal Cord Independence Measure (SCIM III) in measuring functional ability in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI).
Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in the United States (US).
Methods: Functional ability was measured with the SCIM III during the first week of admittance into inpatient acute rehabilitation and within one week of discharge from the same rehabilitation program. Motor and sensory neurologic impairment was measured with the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale. The Functional Independence Measure (FIM), the default functional measure currently used in most US hospitals, was used as a comparison standard for the SCIM III. Statistical analyses were used to test the validity and reliability of the SCIM III.
Results: Total agreement between raters was above 70% on most SCIM III tasks and all κ-coefficients were statistically significant (P<0.001). The coefficients of Pearson correlation between the paired raters were above 0.81 and intraclass correlation coefficients were above 0.81. Cronbach's-α was above 0.7, with the exception of the respiration task. The coefficient of Pearson correlation between the FIM and SCIM III was 0.8 (P<0.001). For the respiration and sphincter management subscale, the SCIM III was more responsive to change, than the FIM (P<0.0001).
Conclusion: Overall, the SCIM III is a reliable and valid measure of functional change in SCI. However, improved scoring instructions and a few modifications to the scoring categories may reduce variability between raters and enhance clinical utility.