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Arthritis Care Res. 1996 Jun;9(3):182-8.

Inter-observer reliability of the Spondylitis Functional Index Instrument for assessing spondylarthropathies.



To study the Spondylitis Functional Index (SFI) by having two physical therapists observe patients with spondylitis perform various tasks listed on the instrument. The physical therapists' observations were compared with each other and with the self-reported abilities of the patients.


Subjects (n = 30) were recruited from a cross-section of patients participating in a prospective randomized, multicenter, double-blind, parallel clinical trial of the efficacy of sulfasalazine on ankylosing spondylitis (n = 13), psoriatic arthritis (n = 13), and Reiter's syndrome (n = 4) conducted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Percents of agreement and Cohen's kappa analysis were used to assess the reliability of the observations of the therapists and patients.


The overall percent of agreement between the observers on the SFI was 93%. The overall percent of agreement between observer 1 and patients on the SFI was 66% and between observer 2 and patients was 67%. The overall inter-observer reliability measured by the Pearson coefficient was 0.91 and by Cohen's kappa was 0.86. Between observer 1 and the patients the Pearson was r = 0.53 and kappa = 0.39. For observer 2 the Pearson was r = 0.52 and kappa 0.39.


We consider the agreement and reliability between observers to be high. The agreement and inter-observer reliability was poor between observers and patients. The SFI, as enhanced for use in this study to assess change in functional ability of patients with spondylitis, demonstrated high reliability when used by trained observers.

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