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J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 1998 Jul-Aug;9(4):84-94.

The reliability and validity of the subjective peripheral neuropathy screen.

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  • 1Chase-Brexton Health Services, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Painful sensory neuropathy (PSN) is the most common neurological disorder associated with HIV infection and affects up to 30% of HIV-positive individuals. PSN may develop as a consequence of HIV infection or from the toxic effect of the antiretrovirals. Although several tools have been developed to screen for PSN, their validity and reliability has yet to be established among HIV-positive patients. The Subjective Peripheral Neuropathy Screen (SPNS) is a brief self-report tool that is currently being administered in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. The objective of this study was to establish the psychometric properties of the SPNS screening tool for the correct identification of PSN in HIV-positive individuals. Specifically the goals were to determine the reliability, the validity, and the diagnostic efficiency of the SPNS in the detection of PSN. Data were abstracted on subjects enrolled in an ongoing natural history cohort. The SPNS was administered to a convenience sample of 39 HIV-positive individuals with PSN and 44 HIV-positive controls. Results showed the SPNS to be internally consistent (Cronbach's alpha = .86). SPNS score differences assessed by t-test were significantly different for individual symptoms of parasthesias, numbness, and pain of the lower extremities, and for severity measures (the Clinical Severity Grade, and the Average Severity Score) between the HIV-positive groups (p < .05). Using Spearman's rank, significant correlations were demonstrated between the neurological exam and the Clinical Severity Grade and the Average Severity Score, the neurological exam and vibratory quantitative sensory testing (QST) only, and the severity measures and vibratory QST only. Sensitivity and specificity analysis demonstrated that numbness of the lower extremities was the symptom with the highest efficiency for correctly classifying PSN. Thus, internal consistency, construct validity, and criterion related validity were confirmed with the SPNS for the correct classification of PSN in HIV-positive individuals.

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