BACKGROUND: To investigate the effectiveness of upper limb rehabilitation, sound measures of upper limb function, capacity, and performance are paramount.
OBJECTIVES: This systematic review investigates reliability and responsiveness of upper limb measurement tools used in pediatric neurorehabilitation.
METHODS: A 2-tiered search was conducted up to July 2014. The first search identified upper limb motor assessments for 1- to 18-year-old children with neuromotor disorders. The second search examined the psychometric properties of the tools. Methodological quality was rated according to COSMIN guidelines, and results for each tool were assembled in a "best evidence synthesis." Furthermore, we delineated whether tools were unimanual or bimanual tests and if they measured recovery or did not distinguish between physiological and compensatory movements.
RESULTS: The first search delivered 2546 hits. Of these, 110 articles on 51 upper limb assessment tools were included. The second search resulted in 58 studies on reliability, 11 on measurement error, and 10 on responsiveness. Best evidence synthesis revealed only 2 assessments with moderate positive evidence for reliability, whereas no evidence on measurement error and responsiveness was found. The Melbourne Assessment showed moderate positive evidence for interrater and a fair positive level of evidence for intrarater reliability. The Pediatric Motor Activity Log Revised revealed moderate positive evidence for test-retest reliability.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of high-quality studies about psychometric properties of upper limb measurement tools in children with neuromotor disorders. To date, upper limb rehabilitation trials in children and adolescents risk being biased by insensitive measurement tools lacking reliability.