Measurement variance in limb length discrepancy: clinical and radiographic assessment of interobserver and intraobserver variability.
The purpose of this study was to assess interobserver and intraobserver variability in the assessment of clinical and radiographic measurement of lower limb length discrepancy. Clinical measurements included direct measurement with a tape measure from anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) to lateral malleolus and ASIS to medial malleolus as well as block measurement. Slit scanogram radiographic measurement was also evaluated. All three clinical measurements had excellent reliability, but the relatively large mean differences and the large 95% confidence intervals for clinical measurements limit the usefulness of these techniques. Slit scanogram measurement was the most reliable measurement technique. The intraobserver variance of direct slit scanogram measurement included intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.99, mean difference of 0.1 cm, and 95% confidence interval of 0.4 cm. Results were not influenced by patient age or body mass index. Slit scanogram measurement is the preferred method for assessment of limb length discrepancy. The direct slit scanogram measurement described in the text follows the mechanical axis line of the leg in the "at ease" standing position described by Paley. Direct measurement using a measuring tape on a full-length slit scanogram is more reliable than indirect measurement using horizontal lines drawn to a radiolucent ruler that is positioned by a technician, since direct measurement avoids errors due to nonparallel positioning of the limb relative to the ruler, and direct measurement also avoids errors due to non-horizontal lines drawn from standard bony landmarks to the ruler. The ideal radiographic measurement technique would have high reliability and accuracy and would minimize or eliminate radiation.