Both Subjective and Objective Measures Tell the Shoulder Story
When surgeons and patients discuss what treatment will work best for a particular musculoskeletal ailment, they often rely on both “subjective” and “objective” outcome data from previously published assessments. Reviewing both types of data is a good idea, because a study among more than 100 patients with shoulder osteoarthritis by Matsen et al. in the March 1, 2017 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found poor correlation between objective measures of active abduction and subjective patient self-assessments using the Simple Shoulder Test (SST).
The authors used a statistical method called “coefficient of determination”
to confirm “a highly variable relationship” between the patient-reported SST (subjective) and motor-sensor range-of-motion (objective) measurements. In less statistical language, many of the shoulders had good motion and poor self-assessed function, while others had poor motion and good self-assessed function.
The findings led the authors to conclude that “studies of treatment outcomes should include separate assessments of these 2 complementary aspects of shoulder function.” That conclusion was seconded and expanded upon in a commentary by Jeffrey S. Abrams, MD, who wrote that “either [subjective or objective] assessment used independently may lead to the wrong impression.”