Content » Vol 51, Issue 3

Original report

The Functional Independence Measure 18-item version can be reported as a unidimensional interval-scaled metric: Internal construct validity revisited

Roxanne Maritz, Alan Tennant, Carolina Fellinghauer, Gerold Stucki, Birgit Prodinger
Rehabilitation Services & Care Unit, Swiss Paraplegic Research, 6207 Nottwil, Switzerland. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2525


Objective: Since the 1990s the Functional Independence Measure (FIM™) was believed to measure 2 different constructs, represented by its motor and cognitive subscales. The practice of reporting FIM™ total scores, together with recent developments in the understanding of the influence of locally dependent items on fit to the Rasch model, raises the question of whether the FIM™ 18-item version can be reported as a unidimensional interval-scaled metric.
Design: Rasch analysis of the FIM™ using testlet approaches to accommodate local response dependency.
Patients: A calibration sample containing 946 cases of data from 11,103 patients undergoing neurological or musculoskeletal rehabilitation in Switzerland in 2016.
Results: Baseline analysis and the traditional testlet approach showed no fit with the Rasch model. When items were grouped into 2 testlets, fit to the Rasch model was achieved, indicating unidimensionality across all 18 items. A transformation table to convert FIM™ raw ordinal scores to the corresponding Rasch interval scaled values was created.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence that FIM™ total scores represent a unidimensional set of items, supporting their use in clinical practice and outcome reporting when applying the respective transformation table. This provides a basis for standardized reporting of functioning.

Lay Abstract

The aim of this study was to look in detail at the FIM™, an assessment tool often used for patients undergoing rehabilitation. Some users report the FIM™ as 2 scores: one related to motor tasks, the other to cognitive tasks; others recommend reporting it as a single score including both motor and cognitive tasks. This study explored whether it is statistically meaningful to sum all the points into a single FIM™ total score. The results support the current practice of summing the points into a single total score for patients undergoing musculo-skeletal and neurological rehabilitation. The results also allowed an interval scale to be derived from the FIM™, enabling a broad range of calculations to be made using the FIM™ score, such as calculating the change in FIM™ outcomes from the time a patient is admitted to a rehabilitation clinic until their discharge.

Supplementary content


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