Minimal important difference and patient acceptable symptom state for common outcome instruments in patients with a closed humeral shaft fracture - analysis of the FISH randomised clinical trial data

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2022 Nov 10;22(1):291. doi: 10.1186/s12874-022-01776-6.


Background: Two common ways of assessing the clinical relevance of treatment outcomes are the minimal important difference (MID) and the patient acceptable symptom state (PASS). The former represents the smallest change in the given outcome that makes people feel better, while the latter is the symptom level at which patients feel well.

Methods: We recruited 124 patients with a humeral shaft fracture to a randomised controlled trial comparing surgery to nonsurgical care. Outcome instruments included the Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) score, the Constant-Murley score, and two numerical rating scales (NRS) for pain (at rest and on activities). A reduction in DASH and pain scores, and increase in the Constant-Murley score represents improvement. We used four methods (receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curve, the mean difference of change, the mean change, and predictive modelling methods) to determine the MID, and two methods (the ROC and 75th percentile) for the PASS. As an anchor for the analyses, we assessed patients' satisfaction regarding the injured arm using a 7-item Likert-scale.

Results: The change in the anchor question was strongly correlated with the change in DASH, moderately correlated with the change of the Constant-Murley score and pain on activities, and poorly correlated with the change in pain at rest (Spearman's rho 0.51, -0.40, 0.36, and 0.15, respectively). Depending on the method, the MID estimates for DASH ranged from -6.7 to -11.2, pain on activities from -0.5 to -1.3, and the Constant-Murley score from 6.3 to 13.5. The ROC method provided reliable estimates for DASH (-6.7 points, Area Under Curve [AUC] 0.77), the Constant-Murley Score (7.6 points, AUC 0.71), and pain on activities (-0.5 points, AUC 0.68). The PASS estimates were 14 and 10 for DASH, 2.5 and 2 for pain on activities, and 68 and 74 for the Constant-Murley score with the ROC and 75th percentile methods, respectively.

Conclusion: Our study provides credible estimates for the MID and PASS values of DASH, pain on activities and the Constant-Murley score, but not for pain at rest. The suggested cut-offs can be used in future studies and for assessing treatment success in patients with humeral shaft fracture.

Trial registration: NCT01719887, first registration 01/11/2012.

Keywords: Clinimetrics; Constant-Murley score; DASH; Humeral shaft fracture; MCID; MID; Minimal important difference; Outcome measures; PASS; Pain; Patient accepted symptom state; Responsiveness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Humeral Fractures* / surgery
  • Humerus
  • Pain
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data