Background: Patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty (TKA) often experience strength deficits both pre- and post-operatively. As these deficits may have a direct impact on functional recovery, strength assessment should be performed in this patient population. For these assessments, reliable measurements should be used. This study aimed to determine the inter- and intrarater reliability of hand-held dynamometry (HHD) in measuring isometric knee strength in patients awaiting TKA.
Methods: To determine interrater reliability, 32 patients (81.3% female) were assessed by two examiners. Patients were assessed consecutively by both examiners on the same individual test dates. To determine intrarater reliability, a subgroup (n = 13) was again assessed by the examiners within four weeks of the initial testing procedure. Maximal isometric knee flexor and extensor strength were tested using a modified Citec hand-held dynamometer. Both the affected and unaffected knee were tested. Reliability was assessed using the Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC). In addition, the Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) and the Smallest Detectable Difference (SDD) were used to determine reliability.
Results: In both the affected and unaffected knee, the inter- and intrarater reliability were good for knee flexors (ICC range 0.76-0.94) and excellent for knee extensors (ICC range 0.92-0.97). However, measurement error was high, displaying SDD ranges between 21.7% and 36.2% for interrater reliability and between 19.0% and 57.5% for intrarater reliability. Overall, measurement error was higher for the knee flexors than for the knee extensors.
Conclusions: Modified HHD appears to be a reliable strength measure, producing good to excellent ICC values for both inter- and intrarater reliability in a group of TKA patients. High SEM and SDD values, however, indicate high measurement error for individual measures. This study demonstrates that a modified HHD is appropriate to evaluate knee strength changes in TKA patient groups. However, it also demonstrates that modified HHD is not suitable to measure individual strength changes. The use of modified HHD is, therefore, not advised for use in a clinical setting.