To better define the clinical significance of patient-reported outcomes, the concept of a minimum clinically important difference (MCID) exists. The MCID is the minimum change that a patient will perceive as meaningful. Prior attempts to determine the MCID after carpal tunnel release are limited by methodologic concerns, including the lack of a true anchor-based MCID calculation.
To address previous methodologic concerns in existing studies, as well as establish a clinically useful value for clinicians, we asked: What are the MCID values for the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Upper Extremity (UE), PROMIS Pain Interference (PI), and the QuickDASH after carpal tunnel release?
We conducted a prospective cohort study at an urban, Midwest, multihospital, Academic health system. One hundred forty-seven adult patients undergoing unilateral carpal tunnel release between September 2020 and February 2022 were identified. PROMIS UE, PI, and QuickDASH scores were collected preoperatively and 3 months postoperatively. We also collected responses to an anchor-based question: “Since your treatment, how would you rate your overall function?” (much worse, worse, slightly worse, no change, slightly improved, improved, or much improved). Patients who did not respond to the 3-month postoperative surveys were excluded. A total of 122 patients were included in the final analysis (83% response proportion [122 of 147]). The mean age was 57 years (range 23 to 87 years), and 68% were women. The MCID was calculated using both anchor-based and distribution-based methods. Although anchor-based calculations are generally considered more clinically relevant because they consider patients’ perceptions of improvement, an estimation of the minimum detectable change (which represents measurement error) relies on a distribution-based calculation. We determined a range of MCID values to propose a final MCID value for all three instruments. A negative MCID value for the PROMIS PI instrument represents a decrease in pain, whereas a positive value for the PROMIS UE instrument represents an improvement in function. A negative value for the QuickDASH instrument represents an increase in function.
The final proposed MCID values were 6.2 (interquartile range [IQR] 5.4 to 9.0) for the PROMIS UE, -7.8 (IQR -6.1 to -8.5) for the PROMIS PI, and -18.2 (IQR -13.3 to -34.1) for the QuickDASH.
We recommend that clinicians use the following values as the MCID after carpal tunnel release: 6 for the UE, -8 for the PI, and -18 for the QuickDASH. Surgeons may find these values useful when counseling patients postoperatively regarding improvement. Future studies could examine whether a single MCID (or small range) for PROMIS instruments is applicable to a variety of conditions and interventions.
Level of evidence:
Level II, therapeutic study.