Neurological Examination of the Upper Limb: A Study of Construct Validity

The Open Neurology Journal 15 Sept 2009 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874205X00903010054



We have previously demonstrated that neurological individual findings and patterns can be reliably assessed in the examination of the upper limb and also that they are related to pain, weakness, and/or numbness/tingling. This study aimed to study further aspects of the construct validity of the neurological examination.


Blinded to patient-characteristics, two examiners assessed the function of 16 muscles, the sensibility in 7 territories, and the nerve-mechanosensitivity at 20 locations in 82 upper limbs. Based on anatomical patterns and pre-designed algorithms, one or both examiners rated neuropathy as “possible” or “definite” in 40 limbs and also determined the location( s). We developed and tested hypotheses on anatomically and regionally related locations of nerve afflictions (a selective vulnerability of neurons, double and multiple crush, and a tendency to regional spread) and examined the stability of the internal structure of the constructs in different situations. The interrelations of findings were analyzed by hypothesis testing and factor analyses, and the homogeneity of location profiles was analyzed by a conditional likelihood test.


Out of 30 limbs with related locations of neuropathy, the findings of each examiner correlated positively (gamma > 0.35) in 22/25, respectively. The patterns of the interrelations identified by the two examiners were similar, with no evidence of any heterogeneity of location profiles for either examiner.


This study supports the validity of the physical examination. However, feasibility of its application requires the demonstration of further aspects of construct validity and a favorable influence on patient-management and/or prevention.

Keywords:: Upper limb physical examination, construct validity, hypothesis testing, factor analyses, conditional likelihood test.
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