PURPOSE: To examine the agreement of assessment of hand oedema in stroke patients by clinical judgement and by use of a hand volumeter. METHOD: A total of 88 rehabilitation patients with stroke received both assessments. Experienced physical therapists classified oedema as 'none', 'minor' or 'severe'. Swelling was independently measured with a hand volumeter. Population data were used to adjust volumeter reading differences for handedness and side of paresis, and to define a cut-off point for oedema of 2 SD of the population distribution. RESULTS: Based on volumetric assessment, 33% of patients had oedema. Physical therapists classified 50% of patients as having minor or severe oedema. Results of both methods were clearly related, but agreement between the assessments was not more than 'fair' (67% agreement; Kappa 0.34). The level of agreement was not substantially affected by the cut-off point used for the volumeter score, the time between both assessments or by the side of paresis. CONCLUSION: Agreement between clinical and volumetric assessment of hand oedema in stroke patients is less than desirable. Volumetric assessment of oedema is recommended for research purposes.
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