The aim of this study is to show the relationship between test-retest reproducibility and responsiveness and to introduce the smallest real difference (SRD) approach, using the sickness impact profile (SIP) in chronic stroke patients as an example. Forty chronic stroke patients were interviewed twice by the same examiner, with a 1-week interval. All patients were interviewed during the qualification period preceding a randomized clinical trial. Test-retest reproducibility has been quantified by the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), the standard error of measurement (SEM) and the related smallest real difference (SRD). Responsiveness was defined as the ratio of the clinically relevant change to the SD of the within-stable-subject test-retest differences. The ICC for the total SIP was 0.92, whereas the ICCs for the specified SIP categories varied from 0.63 for the category 'recreation and pastime' to 0.88 for the category 'work'. However, both the SEM and the SRD far more capture the essence of the reproducibility of a measurement instrument. For instance, a total SIP score of an individual patient of 28.3% (which is taken as an example, being the mean score in the study population) should decrease by at least 9.26% or approximately 13 items, before any improvement beyond reproducibility noise can be detected. The responsiveness to change of a health status measurement instrument is closely related to its test-retest reproducibility. This relationship becomes more evident when the SEM and the SRD are used to quantify reproducibility, than when ICC or other correlation coefficients are used.