The smartphone inclinometer: A new tool to determine elbow range of motion?

  • Frédéric Vauclair
  • Abdulaziz Aljurayyan
  • Fahad H. Abduljabbar
  • Bardia Barimani
  • Patrick Goetti
  • Fiona Houghton
  • Edward J. Harvey
  • Dominique M. Rouleau
Original Article • ELBOW - IMAGING



There are easily accessible tools on smartphones (APP) for measuring elbow range of motion (ROM). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the validity of a particular APP in determining elbow ROM in comparison with the commonly used goniometer (GON), surgeon estimation of range (EST) and measurement on X-ray (XR).


The study included 20 patients (40 elbows). Flexion, extension, pronation and supination were measured using three different methods: EST, GON and APP. Radiographic measurements were taken using the average humeral diaphysis axis and dorsal midthird of ulna in flexion and extension.


The accuracy of the three different methods has been compared to GON using statistical analysis (ANOVA and paired samples test). There was no statistically significant difference for XR flexion measurement (mean of 2.8° ± 1.5°). The APP overestimated flexion (mean of 6.4° ± 1.0°), and EST underestimated it (mean of − 7.9° ± 1.1°). For extension, the mean difference was 2.8° ± 0.7° for EST and − 26.8° ± 3.1° for XR. The APP method did not significantly differ from GON. Supination accuracy was greater with EST (2.7° ± 1.7°) than with APP (5.9° ± 1.9°). There was no difference for pronation measurement with both EST and APP.


This study is the first comparing four measurement techniques of elbow ROM. Our results showed that EST was only accurate for forearm rotation. The XR scored the best for flexion but is less reliable for extension. Surprisingly, compared to GON, APP did not correlate as we expected for flexion and supination, but the other methods were also inaccurate. We found APP to be very useful to measure complete arc of motion (difference between maximal flexion and maximal extension).

Level of Evidence

III, Retrospective review of a prospective cohort of elbow fracture patients: Diagnostic Study.


Elbow range of motion Smartphone application Inclinometer Goniometer Accuracy X-ray measurement 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dominique M. Rouleau is a consultant for Bioventus, and Wright. The institution (HSCM) of one or more of the authors (DMR) has received funding from: Arthrex, Conmed, Depuy, Linvatec, Smith and Nephew, Stryker, Synthes, Tornier, Wright and Zimmer. Frédéric Vauclair has received funding from two nonprofit foundations (SICPA foundation and Swiss Orthopedics) for his orthopedic trauma fellowship at McGill University Health Centre. For all remaining authors, none declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag France SAS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frédéric Vauclair
    • 1
  • Abdulaziz Aljurayyan
    • 2
    • 4
  • Fahad H. Abduljabbar
    • 3
    • 4
  • Bardia Barimani
    • 4
    • 5
  • Patrick Goetti
    • 1
  • Fiona Houghton
    • 4
  • Edward J. Harvey
    • 4
  • Dominique M. Rouleau
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Orthopedic and Trauma SurgeryLausanne University HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryKing Abdulaziz UniversityJeddahSaudi Arabia
  4. 4.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryMcGill University Health CentreMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of MedicineImperial College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryHôpital du Sacré-Cœur de MontréalMontrealCanada

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