Reliability of range-of-motion measurement in the elbow and forearm

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1998 Nov-Dec;7(6):573-80. doi: 10.1016/s1058-2746(98)90003-9.


The purpose of this study was to examine intratester, intertester, and interdevice reliability of range of motion measurements of the elbow and forearm. Elbow flexion and extension and forearm pronation and supination were measured on 38 subjects with elbow, forearm, or wrist disease by 5 testers. Standardized test methods and a randomized order of testing were used to test groups of patients with universal standard goniometers, a computerized goniometer, and a mechanical rotation measuring device. Intratester reliability was high for all 3 measuring devices. Meaningful changes in intratester range of motion measurements taken with a universal goniometer occur with 95% confidence if they are greater than 6 degrees for flexion, 7 degrees for extension, 8 degrees for pronation, and 8 degrees for supination. Intertester reliability was high for flexion and extension measurements with the computerized goniometer and moderate for flexion and extension measurements with the universal goniometer. Meaningful change in interobserver range of motion measurements was expected if the change was greater than 4 degrees for flexion and 6 degrees for extension with the computerized goniometer compared with 10 degrees and 10 degrees, respectively, if the universal goniometer was used. Intertester reliability was high for pronation and supination with all 3 devices. Meaningful change in forearm rotation is characterized by a minimum of 10 degrees for pronation and 11 degrees for supination with the universal goniometer. Reliable measurements of elbow and forearm arm movement are obtainable regardless of the level of experience when standardized methods are used. Measurement error was least for repeated measurements taken by the same tester with the same instrument and most when different instruments were used.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Elbow Joint / physiology*
  • Female
  • Forearm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Reproducibility of Results