In the orthopaedic literature, there is a wide range of clinical outcome measurement tools that have been used in evaluating foot and ankle procedures, disorders, and outcomes, with no broadly accepted consensus as to which tools are preferred. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency and distribution of the various outcome instruments used in the foot and ankle literature, and to identify trends for use of these instruments over time.Methods:
We conducted a systematic review of all original clinical articles reporting on foot and/or ankle topics in six orthopaedic journals over a ten-year period (2002 to 2011). All clinical patient-reported outcome rating instruments used in these articles were recorded, as were study date, study design, clinical topic, and level of evidence.Results:
A total of 878 clinical foot and ankle articles that used at least one patient-reported outcome measure were identified among 16,513 total articles published during the ten-year period. There were 139 unique clinical outcome scales used, and the five most popular scales (as a percentage of foot/ankle outcome articles) were the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) scales (55.9%), visual analog scale (VAS) for pain (22.9%), Short Form-36 (SF-36) Health Survey (13.7%), Foot Function Index (FFI) (5.5%), and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) outcomes instruments (3.3%). The majority of articles described Level-IV studies (70.1%); only 9.4% reported Level-I studies.Conclusions:
A considerable variety of outcome measurement tools are used in the foot and ankle clinical literature, with a small proportion used consistently. The AOFAS scales continue to be used at a high rate relative to other scales that have been validated. Data from the present study underscore the need for a paradigm shift toward the use of consistent, valid, and reliable outcome measures for studies of foot and ankle procedures and disorders. It is not clear which existing validated outcome instruments will emerge as widely used and clinically meaningful.Clinical Relevance:
These data support the need for a paradigm shift toward the consistent use of valid and reliable outcome measures for foot and ankle clinical research.