The Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) is well known and commonly used to assess young, active patients with ACL injuries. However, this application of the outcome measure has been called into question. There is currently no evidence supporting the structural validity of the KOOS for this patient population. Structural validity refers to whether a questionnaire meant to provide scores on different subscales behaves as intended in the populations of interest. Structural validity should be assessed for all questionnaire measures with multiple items or subscales.
Does the KOOS demonstrate adequate structural validity in young, active patients with ACL tears, when evaluated using (1) exploratory and (2) confirmatory factor analyses?
Between January 2014 and March 2017, 1033 patients were screened for eligibility in the Stability 1 randomized controlled trial from nine centers in Canada and Europe. Patients were eligible if they had an ACL deficient knee, were between 14 and 25 years old, and were thought to be at higher risk of reinjury based on the presence of two or more of the following factors: participation in pivoting sports, presence of a Grade 2 pivot shift or greater, generalized ligamentous laxity (Beighton score of 4 or greater), or genu recurvatum greater than 10°. Based on this criteria, 367 patients were ineligible and another 48 declined to participate. In total, 618 patients were randomized into the trial. Of the trial participants, 98% (605 of 618) of patients had complete baseline KOOS questionnaire data available for this analysis. Based on study inclusion criteria, the baseline KOOS data from the Stability 1 trial represents an appropriate sample to investigate the structural validity of the KOOS, specifically for the young, active ACL deficient population.
A cross sectional retrospective secondary data analysis of the Stability 1 baseline KOOS data was completed to assess the structural validity of the KOOS using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. Exploratory factor analysis investigates how all questionnaire items group together based on their conceptual similarity in a specific sample. Confirmatory factor analysis is similar but used often in a second stage to test and confirm a proposed structure of the subscales. These methods were used to assess the established five-factor structure of the KOOS (symptoms [seven items], pain [nine items], activities of daily living [17 items], sport and recreation [five items], and quality of life [four items]) in young active patients with ACL tears. Incremental posthoc modifications, such as correlating questionnaire items or moving items to different subscales, were made to the model structure until adequate fit was achieved. Model fit was assessed using chi-square, root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and an associated 90% confidence interval, comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), as well as standardized root mean square residual (SRMR). Adequate fit was defined as a CFI and TLI > 0.9, and RMSEA and SRMR < 0.08.
Structural validity of the KOOS was not confirmed when evaluated using (1) exploratory or (2) confirmatory factor analyses. The exploratory factor analysis, where the 42 KOOS items were allowed to group naturally, did not reflect adequate fit for a five-factor model (TLI = 0.828). Similarly, the confirmatory factor analysis used to investigate the KOOS structure as it was originally developed, revealed inadequate fit in our sample (RMSEA = 0.088 [90% CI 0.086 to 0.091]). Our analysis suggested a modified four-factor structure may be more appropriate in young, active ACL deficient patients; however, the final version presented here is not appropriate for clinical use because of the number and nature of post-hoc modifications required to reach adequate fit indices.
The established five-factor structure of the KOOS did not hold true in our sample of young, active patients undergoing ACL reconstruction, indicating poor structural validity.
We question the utility and interpretability of KOOS subscale scores for young, active patients with ACL tears with the current form of the KOOS. A modified version of the KOOS, adjusted for this patient population, is needed to better reflect and interpret the outcomes and recovery trajectory in this high-functioning group. A separate analysis with a defined a priori development plan would be needed to create a valid alternative.