Evaluation of the box and blocks test, stereognosis and item banks of activity and upper extremity function in youths with brachial plexus birth palsy

Mary Jane Mulcahey, Scott Kozin, Lisa Merenda, John Gaughan, Feng Tian, Gloria Gogola, Michelle A James, Pengsheng Ni
Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 2012, 32 Suppl 2: S114-22

BACKGROUND: One of the greatest limitations to measuring outcomes in pediatric orthopaedics is the lack of effective instruments. Computer adaptive testing, which uses large item banks, select only items that are relevant to a child's function based on a previous response and filters items that are too easy or too hard or simply not relevant to the child. In this way, computer adaptive testing provides for a meaningful, efficient, and precise method to evaluate patient-reported outcomes. Banks of items that assess activity and upper extremity (UE) function have been developed for children with cerebral palsy and have enabled computer adaptive tests that showed strong reliability, strong validity, and broader content range when compared with traditional instruments. Because of the void in instruments for children with brachial plexus birth palsy (BPBP) and the importance of having an UE and activity scale, we were interested in how well these items worked in this population.

METHODS: Cross-sectional, multicenter study involving 200 children with BPBP was conducted. The box and block test (BBT) and Stereognosis tests were administered and patient reports of UE function and activity were obtained with the cerebral palsy item banks. Differential item functioning (DIF) was examined. Predictive ability of the BBT and stereognosis was evaluated with proportional odds logistic regression model. Spearman correlations coefficients (rs) were calculated to examine correlation between stereognosis and the BBT and between individual stereognosis items and the total stereognosis score.

RESULTS: Six of the 86 items showed DIF, indicating that the activity and UE item banks may be useful for computer adaptive tests for children with BPBP. The penny and the button were strongest predictors of impairment level (odds ratio=0.34 to 0.40]. There was a good positive relationship between total stereognosis and BBT scores (rs=0.60). The BBT had a good negative (rs=-0.55) and good positive (rs=0.55) relationship with the clinical category of BPBP and Raimondi classification, respectively. There was a moderate negative (rs=-0.36) and moderate positive (rs=0.47) relationship between total stereognosis and clinical category of BPBP and Raimondi, respectively. Individual stereognosis items had moderate (rs=0.34 to 0.45) to good (rs=0.52 to 0.74) correlation with total stereognosis score.

CONCLUSIONS: In children with BPBP, there was little to no DIF with item banks of activity and UE functioning. The BBT is a good predictor of degree of impairment. Stereognosis with 2 items may provide comparable information as 12 items.


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