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OBJECTIVE—To compare the responsiveness of the condition-specific Western Ontario and McMaster Universities osteoarthritis (OA) index (WOMAC) and the generic Short Form-36 (SF-36) in patients with OA of the legs undergoing a comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation intervention.
METHODS—A prospective follow up study of consecutively referred inpatients of a rehabilitation clinic was made. The patients included fulfilled the American College of Rheumatology criteria for knee or hip OA and underwent both passive and, particularly, active physical therapy for three to four weeks. Responsiveness assessment was performed using the standardised response mean (SRM), effect size, and Guyatt's responsiveness statistic between admission and discharge (end of rehabilitation) and then again between admission and three months later. For pain and function the SRMs were stratified by sex and OA joint. Effects were tested by the t test and SRMs of different scales were compared by the jack knife test.
RESULTS—At the three month follow up, complete data were obtained for 223 patients. In general, the three responsiveness statistics showed a similar order of responsiveness. For both instruments, the pain scales were more responsive than the function scales. The responsiveness of the pain scale of both instruments was comparable (SRM=0.723 for WOMAC and SRM=0.528 for SF-36 at the end of rehabilitation; SRM=0.377 for WOMAC and SRM=0.468 for SF-36 at the three month follow up). In the measurement of function, the WOMAC was significantly more responsive than the SF-36 (SRMs, end of rehabilitation: 0.628 v 0.249; three month follow up: 0.235 v −0.001). Responsiveness tended to be higher in women and in knee OA than in men and hip OA.
CONCLUSIONS—Both instruments, the WOMAC and the SF-36, capture improvement in pain in patients undergoing comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation intervention. Functional improvement can be detected better by the WOMAC than by the SF-36. All the other scales of both instruments were more weakly responsive.