Introduction: Muscle weakness often complicates critical illness and is associated with devastating short- and long-term consequences. For interventional studies, reliable measurements of muscle force in the intensive care unit (ICU) are needed.
Methods: To examine interobserver agreement, two observers independently measured Medical Research Council (MRC) sum-score (n = 75) and handgrip strength (n = 46) in a cross-sectional ICU sample.
Results: The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for MRC sum-score was 0.95 (0.92-0.97). The kappa coefficient for identifying "significant weakness" (MRC sum-score <48, MRC subtotal upper limbs <24) and "severe weakness" (MRC sum-score <36) was 0.68 ± 0.09, 0.88 ± 0.07, and 0.93 ± 0.07, respectively. The ICC for left and right handgrip strength was 0.97 (0.94-0.98) and 0.93 (0.86-0.97), respectively.
Conclusions: Interobserver agreement on MRC sum-score and handgrip strength in the ICU was very good. Agreement on "severe weakness" (MRC sum-score <36) was excellent and supports its use in interventional studies. Agreement on "significant weakness" (MRC sum-score <48) was good, but even better using the equivalent cut-off in the upper limbs. It remains to be determined whether this may serve as a substitute.
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