Reliability of chinese medicine diagnostic variables in the examination of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

B. Hua, E. Abbas, A. Hayes, P. Ryan, L. Nelson, K. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Chinese medicine (CM) has its own diagnostic indicators that are used as evidence of change in a patient's condition. The majority of studies investigating efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) have utilized biomedical diagnostic endpoints. For CM clinical diagnostic variables to be incorporated into clinical trial designs, there would need to be evidence that these diagnostic variables are reliable. Previous studies have indicated that the reliability of CM syndrome diagnosis is variable. Little information is known about where the variability stems from-the basic data collection level or the synthesis of diagnostic data, or both. No previous studies have investigated systematically the reliability of all four diagnostic methods used in the CM diagnostic process (Inquiry, Inspection, Auscultation/Olfaction, and Palpation). Objectives: The objective of this study was to assess the inter-rater reliability of data collected using the four diagnostic methods of CM in Australian patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA), in order to investigate if CM variables could be used with confidence as diagnostic endpoints in a clinical trial investigating the efficacy of a CHM in treating OA. Methods: An inter-rater reliability study was conducted as a substudy of a clinical trial investigating the treatment of knee OA with Chinese herbal medicine. Two (2) experienced CM practitioners conducted a CM examination separately, within 2 hours of each other, in 40 participants. A CM assessment form was utilized to record the diagnostic data. Cohen's κ coefficient was used as a measure of the level of agreement between 2 practitioners. Results: There was a relatively good level of agreement for Inquiry and Auscultation variables, and, in general, a low level of agreement for (visual) Inspection and Palpation variables. Conclusions: There was variation in the level of agreement between 2 practitioners on clinical information collected using the Four Diagnostic Methods of a CM examination. Some aspects of CM diagnosis appear to be reliable, while others are not. Based on these results, it was inappropriate to use CM diagnostic variables as diagnostic endpoints in the main study, which was an investigation of efficacy of CHM treatment of knee OA. © 2012, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1028-1037
Number of pages10
JournalJ. Altern. Complement. Med.
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • abdomen
  • appetite
  • article
  • Australia
  • body build
  • body posture
  • body regions
  • body temperature
  • breathing
  • Chinese medicine
  • clinical effectiveness
  • diagnostic value
  • dizziness
  • ear
  • emotion
  • energy
  • eye
  • feces
  • hair
  • hand
  • headache
  • herbal medicine
  • human
  • interrater reliability
  • knee
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • lip
  • priority journal
  • pulse rate
  • religion
  • skin color
  • sleep
  • sweat
  • thirst
  • thorax
  • tongue
  • urine
  • voice
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee
  • Knee Joint
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee
  • Physical Examination
  • Phytotherapy
  • Reproducibility of Results


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