Measurement of Pectoralis Minor Muscle Length in Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Reliability, Validity, and Clinical Application

Shana Harrington, Julie Hoffman, Dimitrios Katsavelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Decreased pectoralis minor muscle length is common after primary breast cancer treatment and can result in an abnormal position of the scapula. This position can contribute to shoulder pain and pathomechanics and can lead to problems such as impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears, and frozen shoulder. Currently, there are limited reliable methods for measuring pectoralis minor length. Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the reliability and validity of measuring pectoralis minor length in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Design: This was a cross-sectional reliability and validity study. Methods: Bilateral pectoralis minor length (in centimeters) was assessed using a palpation meter in women (N = 29) diagnosed with breast cancer by 2 licensed physical therapists who were masked to the measures. Bilateral pectoralis minor length was also measured using a motion capture system to assess validity. Results: Intratester reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient, ICC [3,k] = 0.971; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.939-0.986; standard error of measurement [SEM] = 0.16 cm) and intertester reliability (ICC[3,k] = 0.915; 95% CI = 0.81-0.962; SEM = 0.31 cm) were excellent for the palpation meter on the affected side and the unaffected side (intratester reliability: ICC[3,k] = 0.951; 95% CI = 0.897-0.977; SEM = 0.19 cm; intertester reliability: ICC[3,k] = 0.945; 95% CI = 0.877-0.975; SEM = 0.22 cm). Significant correlations were found between the motion capture system and the palpation meter on the affected side (r = 0.87) and the unaffected side (r = 0.81). Bland-Altman plots between the palpation meter and the motion capture system demonstrated that all the measures fell within the limits of agreement. Limitations: This study encountered possible errors with the accuracy of the motion capture system tracking because of the proximity of the markers and inherent volumetric restrictions. Conclusions: The palpation meter is a reliable, valid, easily administered, and cost-effective tool for assessing pectoralis minor length in women with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 10 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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