Reliability of measurements derived from the palpation method of a software for postural evaluation: does clinical experience matter?

Abstract The postural evaluation software (SAPO) has been used as a valuable tool for the analysis of postural alterations, however, such a tool depends on palpation performed by the evaluator. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the inter-and intra-examiner reliability of experienced and inexperienced examiners in measurements derived from the palpation method, and its possible influence on measurements obtained by SAPO. Nine evaluators participated in the study, which were divided into three groups according to experience with respect to palpation (GI: inexperienced group, GSE: semi-experienced group and GE: experienced group). Each evaluator performed the postural analysis of 10 volunteers, which were photographed in orthostatic position, following the SAPO recommendations. The intra-examiner reliability analysis indicated that all three groups had higher, good and moderate mean correlation values for each examiner than low correlations. In the inter-examiner reliability assessment, GE and GSE groups exhibited higher correlation values. The intra-class correlation coefficient, in the single-measure analysis, presented correlation coefficients <0.70 in 9 of the variables analyzed, indicating non-significant correlation. It was concluded that the measures analyzed by SAPO have high intra-examiner reliability. However, regarding inter-examiner reliability, the group composed of inexperienced evaluators presented lower values, suggesting that the experience time may have influenced the inter-examiner reliability regarding postural evaluation.