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Papers of the Week

Papers: 26 Feb 2022 - 4 Mar 2022

2022 Feb 20




Concept of the Number Needed to Treat for the Analysis of Pain Relief Outcomes in Patients Treated with Spinal Cord Stimulation.


Bailey-Classen A, Parikh A, Adimi N, Edgar D, Yan A, Rotte A, Caraway D
Biomedicines. 2022 Feb 20; 10(2).
PMID: 35203706.


In the rapidly evolving field of spinal cord stimulation (SCS), measures of treatment effects are needed to help understand the benefits of new therapies. The present article elaborates the number needed to treat (NNT) concept and applies it to the SCS field. We reviewed the basic theory of the NNT, its calculation method, and its application to historical controlled trials of SCS. We searched the literature for controlled studies with ≥20 implanted SCS patients with chronic axial back and/or leg pain followed for ≥3 months and a reported responder rate defined as ≥50% pain relief. Relevant data necessary to estimate the NNT were extracted from the included articles. In total, 12 of 1616 records were eligible for inclusion. The records reported 10 clinical studies, including 7 randomized controlled trials, 2 randomized crossover trials, and 1 controlled cohort study. The studies investigated traditional SCS and more recently developed SCS modalities, including 10 kHz SCS. In conclusion, the NNT estimate may help SCS stakeholders better understand the effect size difference between compared treatments; however, interpretation of any NNT should take into account its full context. In addition, comparisons across trials of different therapies should be avoided since they are prone to interpretation biases.