Reliability of a quantitative clinical posture assessment tool among persons with idiopathic scoliosis

The objective of this study was to determine overall, test–retest and inter-rater reliability of posture indices among persons with idiopathic scoliosis. Seventy participants aged between 10 and 20 years with different types of idiopathic scoliosis (Cobb angle 15 to 60°) were recruited from the scoliosis clinic. Based on the XY co-ordinates of natural reference points (e.g. eyes) as well as markers placed on several anatomical landmarks, 32 angular and linear posture indices taken from digital photographs in the standing position were calculated from a specially developed software program. Generalisability theory served to estimate the reliability and standard error of measurement (SEM) for the overall, test–retest and inter-rater designs. Bland and Altman’s method was also used to document agreement between sessions and raters. In the random design, dependability coefficients demonstrated a moderate level of reliability for six posture indices (phi = 0.51 to 0.72) and a good level of reliability for 26 posture indices out of 32 (phi ≥ 0.79). Error attributable to marker placement was negligible for most indices. Limits of agreement and SEM values were larger for shoulder protraction, trunk list, Q angle, cervical lordosis and scoliosis angles. The most reproducible indices were waist angles and knee valgus and varus.

Posture can be assessed in a global fashion from photographs in persons with idiopathic scoliosis. Despite the good reliability of marker placement, other studies are needed to minimise measurement errors in order to provide a suitable tool for monitoring change in posture over time.

Carole Fortin, Debbie Ehrmann Feldman, Farida Cheriet, Denis Gravel, Frédérique Gauthier and Hubert Labelle. Reliability of a quantitative clinical posture assessment tool among persons with idiopathic scoliosis. Physiotherapy, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 16 April 2011,