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BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2011 Apr 18;12:77. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-12-77.

Validity and reliability of using photography for measuring knee range of motion: a methodological study.

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  • 1South West Sydney Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Liverpool, NSW, Australia.



The clinimetric properties of knee goniometry are essential to appreciate in light of its extensive use in the orthopaedic and rehabilitative communities. Intra-observer reliability is thought to be satisfactory, but the validity and inter-rater reliability of knee goniometry often demonstrate unacceptable levels of variation. This study tests the validity and reliability of measuring knee range of motion using goniometry and photographic records.



Methodology study assessing the validity and reliability of one method ('Marker Method') which uses a skin marker over the greater trochanter and another method ('Line of Femur Method') which requires estimation of the line of femur.


Radiology and orthopaedic departments of two teaching hospitals.


31 volunteers (13 arthritic and 18 healthy subjects). Knee range of motion was measured radiographically and photographically using a goniometer. Three assessors were assessed for reliability and validity.


Agreement between methods and within raters was assessed using concordance correlation coefficient (CCCs). Agreement between raters was assessed using intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs). 95% limits of agreement for the mean difference for all paired comparisons were computed.


Validity (referenced to radiographs): Each method for all 3 raters yielded very high CCCs for flexion (0.975 to 0.988), and moderate to substantial CCCs for extension angles (0.478 to 0.678). The mean differences and 95% limits of agreement were narrower for flexion than they were for extension. Intra-rater reliability: For flexion and extension, very high CCCs were attained for all 3 raters for both methods with slightly greater CCCs seen for flexion (CCCs varied from 0.981 to 0.998). Inter-rater reliability: For both methods, very high ICCs (min to max: 0.891 to 0.995) were obtained for flexion and extension. Slightly higher coefficients were obtained for flexion compared to extension, and with the Marker compared to the Line of Femur Method. For intra- and inter-rater reliability, the mean differences (within 2 degrees) and 95% limits of agreement (within 5 degrees) were generally clinically acceptable for both methods.


Photography potentially offers a superior method of measurement over standard goniometry as visualising the centre of the knee is simplified in a two-dimensional plane and the permanent record provides greater assessor transparency as well as opportunity to confer. The Marker and Line of Femur Methods have moderate to substantial validity, but the inter- and intra-rater repeatability for trained observers are excellent with both methods yielding small mean differences with narrow limits of agreement. The Line of Femur Method offers the added advantage that it does not rely on inter-clinician consistency in identifying the greater trochanter.

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