Staircase-evoked Pain May be More Sensitive Than Traditional Pain Assessments in Discriminating Analgesic Effects

Roi Treister, Erica Suzan, Oluwadolapo D. Lawal, Nathaniel P. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Analgesic trials often fail to show a significant effect even when medications with known efficacy are tested. This could be attributed to insufficient assay sensitivity of analgesic trials, which may be due, in part, to the insensitivity of pain-related outcome measures. The aim of this methodological study was to assess the responsiveness of evoked pain generated by the staircase procedure compared with other commonly used pain outcomes in knee osteoarthritis. Methods: This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial of 1-week treatment of naproxen versus placebo. Participants were assigned to one of the 2 treatment sequences (naproxen-placebo or placebo-naproxen). Pain-At-rest, evoked pain using the Staircase-Evoked Pain Procedure (StEPP), pain diary, and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) data were collected before and at the end of each treatment sequence. Results: A total of 55 osteoarthritis patients (30 M, 25 F) completed the study. Among all pain assessments, evoked pain was the most sensitive outcome to detect treatment effects, with Standardized Effect Size (SES) of 0.47 followed by the WOMAC and pain-At-rest with SES of 0.43 and 0.36, respectively. Sample size calculations demonstrated that compared with spontaneous pain, the evoked pain model reduces required number of subjects by 40%. Discussion: Study results support our hypothesis that evoked pain using the StEPP may demonstrate greater responsiveness to treatment effects compared with traditional pain-related outcome measures. Accordingly, these results may facilitate development and validation of other chronic pain-related evoked pain models, which could contribute to future research and development of new analgesics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • chronic pain
  • clinical trial design
  • evoked pain
  • knee pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • staircase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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