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Diagnostic accuracy of the neurological upper limb examination II: Relation to symptoms of patterns of findings

Author(s): Jepsen Jørgen | Laursen Lise | Hagert Carl-Göran | Kreiner Svend | Larsen Anders

Journal: BMC Neurology
ISSN 1471-2377

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 10;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Abstract Background In a sample of patients in clinical occupational medicine we have demonstrated that an upper limb neurological examination can reliably identify patterns of findings suggesting upper limb focal neuropathies. This further study aimed at approaching the diagnostic accuracy of the examination. Methods 82 limbs were semi-quantitatively assessed by two blinded examiners (strength in 14 individual muscles, sensibility in 7 homonymous territories, and mechanosensitivity at 10 locations along nerves). Based on the topography of nerves and their muscular and sensory innervation we defined 10 neurological patterns each suggesting a localized nerve affliction. Information on complaints (pain, weakness and/or numbness/tingling) collected by others served as a reference for comparison. The relation between the presence of pattern(s) and complaints was assessed by κ-statistics. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive/negative predictive values were calculated, and pre-test odds were compared to post-test probability. Results The two examiners identified pattern(s) suggesting focal neuropathy in 34/36 out of 38 symptomatic limbs, respectively (κ = 0.70/0.75), with agreement in 28 limbs. Out of 44 non-symptomatic limbs the examiners agreed on absence of any pattern in 38 limbs. With concordance between the examiners with regard to the presence or absence of any pattern, the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values were 0.73, 0.86, 0.93 and 0.90, respectively. While the pre-test odds for a limb to be symptomatic amounted to 0.46 the post-test probability was 0.81. For each examiner the post-test probability was 0.87 and 0.88, respectively. Conclusion The improved diagnostic confidence is an indication of one aspect of construct validity of the physical examination. For determination of clinical feasibility of the examination further studies are required, most importantly 1) studies of validity by means of comparison with additional references and 2) studies of the potential benefit that can be attained from its use.

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