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Reliability of Quantitative Sensory Tests in a Low Back Pain Population
  1. Pascal H. Vuilleumier, MD*,
  2. José A. Biurrun Manresa, PhD,
  3. Yassine Ghamri, MD*,
  4. Sabine Mlekusch, MD*,
  5. Andreas Siegenthaler, MD*,
  6. Lars Arendt-Nielsen, PhD and
  7. Michele Curatolo, MD, PhD,
  1. From the *Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Therapy, Bern University Hospital, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland; †Center for Sensory–Motor Interaction, Department of Health Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark; and ‡Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  1. Address correspondence to: Pascal H. Vuilleumier, MD, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Bern University Hospital, Inselspital, 3010 Bern, Switzerland (e-mail: pascal.vuilleumier{at}


Background and Objectives Reliability is an essential condition for using quantitative sensory tests (QSTs) in research and clinical practice, but information on reliability in patients with chronic pain is sparse. The aim of this study was to evaluate the reliability of different QST in patients with chronic low back pain.

Methods Eighty-nine patients with chronic low back pain participated in 2 identical experimental sessions, separated by at least 7 days. The following parameters were recorded: pressure pain detection and tolerance thresholds at the toe, electrical pain thresholds to single and repeated stimulation, heat pain detection and tolerance thresholds at the arm and leg, cold pain detection threshold at the arm and leg, and conditioned pain modulation using the cold pressor test.

Reliability was analyzed using the coefficient of variation, the coefficient of repeatability, and the intraclass correlation coefficient. It was judged as acceptable or not based primarily on the analysis of the coefficient of repeatability.

Results The reliability of most tests was acceptable. Exceptions were cold pain detection thresholds at the leg and arm.

Conclusions Most QST measurements have acceptable reliability in patients with chronic low back pain.

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  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

    The study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SPUM 33CM30-124117), Bangerter-Ryner Foundation, EFIC-Grünenthal-Grant (European Federation of IASP Chapters), and the Scientific Funds of the University Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Therapy of the University of Bern.

    Preliminary results of this study were presented in abstract form at EFIC, Hamburg, 2011.

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