What is the reliability of clinical measurement tests for humeral head position? A systematic review Journal Articles uri icon

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  • STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review. INTRODUCTION: Physiotherapists routinely assess the position of the humeral head (HH) in patients with shoulder pain. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To conduct a systematic review to determine the quality and content of studies that evaluated the reliability of clinical measurement methods for assessing the HH position. METHODS: Five databases and gray literature were searched for studies fitting the eligibility criteria. After abstract and full-text review, the included studies were appraised using the Quality Appraisal of Reliability Studies checklist. Articles were considered of high quality if 8 was achieved on the checklist, and the overall quality of evidence was classified using prespecified criteria. Multiple raters extracted and performed quality ratings; a consensus process was used to finalize the reliability data that were synthesized and presented in a narrative synthesis. Reliability was classified as excellent if the intracorrelation coefficients or intercorrelation coefficients (ICCs) reported exceeded 0.75. RESULTS: Fifteen studies on the reliability of ultrasound (US) and 3 studies on palpation were included. The methodologic quality was moderate in 17 of 18 studies. The intrarater reliability for all studies was excellent (ICC, 0.76-0.99) with the exception of the 90° abduction in internal rotation position (ICC, 0.48) for palpation. The inter-rater reliability tended to be lower (ICC, 0.48-0.68) for palpation and higher (ICC, 0.66-0.99) for US. Physiotherapists demonstrated excellent intrarater reliability across different levels of training in ultrasonography. DISCUSSION: Our study found a moderate overall level of evidence to support the use of US for assessing HH position in symptomatic or asymptomatic subjects. CONCLUSION: A moderate overall level of evidence exists for the use of US to reliably assess the HH position. Limited research supports the methods used for palpation within a clinical setting. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 2a.


  • Konieczka, Christine
  • Gibson, Christine
  • Russett, Leeann
  • Dlot, Leah
  • MacDermid, Joy
  • Watson, Lyn
  • Sadi, Jackie

publication date

  • October 2017