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Validation of the ABILHAND questionnaire as a measure of manual ability in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
  1. Patrick Durez1,
  2. Virginie Fraselle2,
  3. Frédéric Houssiau1,
  4. Jean-Louis Thonnard2,
  5. Henri Nielens2,
  6. Massimo Penta2
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, Cliniques Universitaires St-Luc, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Cliniques Universitaires St-Luc, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
    Patrick Durez
    MD, Department of Rheumatology, UCL 5390, Av Hippocrate, 10, B-1200 Bruxelles, Belgium; patrick.durez{at}


Objective: Hand and upper limb involvement is common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, its impact on manual activities of daily life has not been fully evaluated. A measure of manual ability was developed, through the Rasch measurement model, by adapting and validating the ABILHAND questionnaire, which measures the patient’s perceived difficulty in performing everyday manual activities.

Methods: 112 patients with RA were evaluated. The following tests were performed: the ABILHAND questionnaire, the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), the Jamar grip and key pinch strength tests, the Box and Block dexterity test and the Purdue pegboard dexterity test. In total, 35 patients were reassessed to determine the test–retest reliability of the ABILHAND, and 6 patients were studied before and after therapy with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockers to address sensitivity to change.

Results: The Rasch refinement of the ABILHAND led to a selection of 27 items rated on a 3-point scale. The resulting ability scale was targeted to the ability of the patients. The item-difficulty hierarchy was stable across demographic and clinical subgroups and over time. Grip and key pinch strength and manual and digital dexterity on both hands were significantly, though moderately, correlated with the ABILHAND measures. Manual ability was also significantly related to the number of affected hands, disease duration, tender and swollen joint counts on upper limbs, disease activity and the HAQ. Sensitivity to change was demonstrated in patients treated with TNF blockers, commensurate with their clinical improvement.

Conclusion: The ABILHAND questionnaire is a clinically valid person-centred measure of manual ability that could be useful in longitudinal RA studies.

  • DAS28-CRP, 28-point Disease Activity Score-C reactive protein
  • DASH, Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand
  • DIF, differential item functioning
  • DMARD, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug
  • HAQ, Health Assessment Questionnaire
  • ICC, intraclass correlation coefficient
  • TNF, tumour necrosis factor
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • arm
  • activities of daily living
  • disability evaluation
  • outcome assessment

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  • Published Online First 14 December 2006