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J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007 Aug;37(8):480-6.

Ultrasound imaging assessment of abdominal muscle function during drawing-in of the abdominal wall: an intrarater reliability study.

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Division of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.



Test-retest intrarater reliability study.


To examine reliability of abdominal musculature measurements across a broad range of conditions for a physical therapist newly trained in assessment using rehabilitative ultrasound imaging (RUSI).


RUSI has previously been used to assess abdominal muscle function during a drawing-in maneuver of the anterior abdominal wall, and measurements conducted by an experienced assessor have been validated by comparison with magnetic resonance imaging. Few studies have examined the reliability of less experienced operators, and only in isolated measurement conditions.


Nineteen subjects (11 female, 8 male) without a history of low back pain performed the abdominal drawing-in maneuver in a supine hook-lying position. RUSI was used bilaterally to assess the thickness of the internal oblique (IO) and transversus abdominis (TrA) muscles at rest and on contraction, as well as changes in the length of the TrA muscle (indicated by slide of the anterior abdominal fascia). The reliability of a novice rater who received 8 hours of training was examined (a) across 3 measurements of the same ultrasound image, (b) across 3 separate ultrasound images (averaged for days and sides of abdomen), and (c) across 2 days (averaged for images and sides).


Reliability of assessing muscle thickness was very high across 3 measurements of the sale image (intrarater correlation coefficients [ICC3.1] were all greater than 0.97), fair to high across 3 images (ICC(3,4) = 0.62-0.82), and fair to high across 2 days (ICC(3,6) = 0.63-0.85). Reliability of measuring the slide of the anterior abdominal fascia was very high across measurements from the same image (ICC(3,1) = 0.98) but very low across images (ICC(3,4) = 0.44) and across 2 days (ICC(3,6) = 0.36).


High reliability of a novice rater was demonstrated for some measurement conditions. Measures of reliability for recapturing the image and repetition across days ranged from low to high. Inconsistencies in the pattern of results suggest that for a novice assessor using RUSI, training should be performed and reliability assessed for each abdominal muscle and measurement condition intended to be used for research and clinical practice.

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