Burn Hand or Finger Goniometric Measurements: Sum of the Isolated Parts and the Composite Whole

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Accurate assessment of hand function following a burn is important for patient impairment determination. Goniometric measurement of hand or finger range of motion (ROM) is typically done measuring individual finger joints with the adjacent joint in extension (isolated) or measuring the joints in a fist position (composite). The purpose of this study was to compare if the total flexion motion of the summed angles of the metacarpophalangeal, proximal interphalangeal, and distal interphalangeal joints in burned hands were equal when performed in an isolated vs a composite manner. Passive flexion ROM angles were collected prospectively and measured at the metacarpophalangeal, proximal interphalangeal, and distal interphalangeal with the adjacent joints extended to measure isolated angles and with the adjacent joints fully flexed for composite angles. Thumb joints were excluded. ROM for isolated and composite positions of eight fingers was compared individually and as an aggregate. Finger measurements from 145 adult patients were compared. The study population was predominately male (69%) with a mean age of 41 ± 16.6 years. Mean total burn size was 14.2 ± 13.2%. A total of 739 fingers contributed 2217 joint ROM comparisons. Aggregate analysis of isolated ROM was 235.5° ± 52.1° compared with composite ROM of 226.8° ± 53.2° (P < .0001). Individual fingers showed significant differences between the two measurement methods as well (P ≤ .0040). The methods used to measure hand or finger ROM profoundly influence how hand impairment is reported. Measurement of isolated joint angles results in greater ROM values compared with composite angles, which are often more relevant for functional hand positions. Therefore, composite angles are recommended.

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