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Assessing Physical Function in Adult Acquired Major Upper-Limb Amputees by Combining the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) Outcome Questionnaire and Clinical Examination

  • Østlie, Kristin
  • Franklin, Rosemary J.
  • Skjeldal, Ola H.
  • Skrondal, Anders
  • Magnus, Per
Published Article
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2011
DOI: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.04.019


Østlie K, Franklin RJ, Skjeldal OH, Skrondal A, Magnus P. Assessing physical function in adult acquired major upper-limb amputees by combining the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) Outcome Questionnaire and clinical examination. Objectives To describe physical function in adult acquired major upper-limb amputees (ULAs) by combining self-assessed arm function and physical measures obtained by clinical examinations; to estimate associations between background factors and self-assessed arm function in ULAs; and to assess whether clinical examination findings may be used to detect reduced arm function in unilateral ULAs. Design Survey: postal questionnaires and clinical examinations. Setting Norwegian ULA population. Clinical examinations performed at 3 clinics. Participants Questionnaires: population-based sample (n=224; 57.4% response rate). Clinical examinations: combined referred sample and convenience sample of questionnaire responders (n=70; 83.3% of those invited). Survey inclusion criteria: adult acquired major upper-limb amputation, resident in Norway, mastering of spoken and written Norwegian. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures The Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) Outcome Questionnaire, and clinical examination of joint motion and muscle strength with and without prostheses. Results Mean DASH score was 22.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 20.3–25.0); in bilateral amputees, 35.7 (95% CI, 23.0–48.4); and in unilateral amputees, 22.1 (95% CI, 19.8–24.5). A lower unilateral DASH score (better function) was associated with paid employment (vs not in paid employment: adjusted regression coefficient [aB]=−5.40, P=.033; vs students: aB=−13.88, P=.022), increasing postamputation time (aB=−.27, P=.001), and Norwegian ethnicity (aB=−14.45, P<.001). At clinical examination, we found a high frequency of impaired neck mobility and varying frequencies of impaired joint motion and strength at the shoulder, elbow, and forearm level. Prosthesis wear was associated with impaired joint motion in all upper-limb joints ( P<.006) and with reduced shoulder abduction strength ( P=.002). Impaired without-prosthesis joint motion in shoulder flexion (ipsilateral: aB=12.19, P=.001) and shoulder abduction (ipsilateral: aB=12.01, P=.005; contralateral: aB=28.82, P=.004) was associated with increased DASH scores. Conclusions Upper-limb loss clearly affects physical function. DASH score limitation profiles may be useful in individual clinical assessments. Targeted clinical examination may indicate patients with extra rehabilitational needs. Such examinations may be of special importance in relation to prosthesis function.

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