JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Validity, reliability, and feasibility of durometer measurements of scleroderma skin disease in a multicenter treatment trial.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the validity, reliability, and feasibility of durometer measurements of skin hardness as an outcome measure in clinical trials of scleroderma.

METHODS: Skin hardness was measured during a multicenter treatment trial for scleroderma using handheld digital durometers with a continuous scale. Skin thickness was measured by modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS). Other outcome data collected included the Scleroderma Health Assessment Questionnaire. In a reliability exercise in advance of the trial, 9 investigators examined the same 5 scleroderma patients by MRSS and durometry.

RESULTS: Forty-three patients with early diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis were studied at 11 international centers (mean age 49 years [range 24-76], median disease duration 6.4 months [range 0.3-23], and median baseline MRSS 22 [range 11-38]). The reliability of durometer measurements was excellent, with high interobserver intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) (0.82-0.92), and each result was greater than the corresponding skin site ICCs for MRSS (0.54-0.85). Baseline durometer scores correlated well with MRSS (r = 0.69, P < 0.0001), patient self-assessments of skin disease (r = 0.69, P < 0.0001), and Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability scores (r = 0.34, P = 0.03). Change in durometer scores correlated with change in MRSS (r = 0.70, P < 0.0001), change in patient self-assessments of skin disease (r = 0.52, P = 0.003), and change in HAQ disability scores (r = 0.42, P = 0.017). The effect size was greater for durometry than for MRSS or patient self-assessment.

CONCLUSION: Durometer measurements of skin hardness in patients with scleroderma are reliable, simple, accurate, demonstrate good sensitivity to change compared with traditional skin scoring, and reflect patients' self-assessments of their disease. Durometer measurements are valid, objective, and scalable, and should be considered for use as a complementary outcome measure to skin scoring in clinical trials of scleroderma.

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