Systematic Review of Research Methods and Reporting Quality of Randomized Clinical Trials of Spinal Cord Stimulation for Pain

Ewan McNicol, McKenzie Ferguson, Kathleen Bungay, Emily L. Rowe, Sam Eldabe, Jennifer S. Gewandter, Salim M. Hayek, Nathaniel Katz, Brian H. Kopell, John Markman, Ali Rezai, Rod S. Taylor, Dennis C. Turk, Robert H. Dworkin, Richard B. North, Simon Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This systematic review assessed design characteristics and reporting quality of published randomized clinical trials of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for treatment of pain in adults and adolescents. The study protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42018090412). Relevant articles were identified by searching the following databases through December 31, 2018: MEDLINE, Embase, WikiStim, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Forty-six studies were included. Eighty-seven percent of articles identified a pain-related primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included physical functioning, health-related quality of life, and reductions in opioid use. Nineteen of the 46 studies prespecified adverse events as an outcome, with 4 assessing them as a primary outcome. Eleven studies stated that they blinded participants. Of these, only 5 were assessed as being adequately blinded. The number of participants enrolled was generally low (median 38) and study durations were short (median 12 weeks), particularly in studies of angina. Fifteen studies employed an intention-to-treat analysis, of which only seven specified a method to accommodate missing data. Review of these studies identified deficiencies in both reporting and methodology. The review's findings suggest areas for improving the design of future studies and increasing transparency of reporting. Perspective: This article presents a systematic review of research methods and reporting quality of randomized clinical trials of SCS for the treatment of various pain complaints. The review identifies deficiencies in both methodology and reporting, which may inform the design of future studies and improve reporting standards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Clinical trials systematic review/meta analysis
  • Disc disease
  • Neuromodulation
  • Pain
  • Peripheral neuropathy


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