DOI: 10.1213/ane.0000000000006833 ISSN: 0003-2999

Smallest Clinically Meaningful Improvement in Amputation-Related Pain and Brief Pain Inventory Scores as Defined by Patient Reports of Global Improvement After Cryoneurolysis: a Retrospective Analysis of a Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial

Brian M. Ilfeld, Cameron R. Smith, Alparslan Turan, Edward R. Mariano, Matthew E. Miller, Rick L. Fisher, Andrea M. Trescot, Steven P. Cohen, James C. Eisenach, Daniel I. Sessler, J. David Prologo, Edward J. Mascha, Liu Liu, Rodney A. Gabriel,
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


The smallest meaningful improvement in pain scores (minimal clinically important difference [MCID]) after an analgesic intervention is essential information when both interpreting published data and designing a clinical trial. However, limited information is available for patients with chronic pain conditions, and what is published is derived from studies involving pharmacologic and psychological interventions. We here calculate these values based on data collected from 144 participants of a previously published multicenter clinical trial investigating the effects of a single treatment with percutaneous cryoneurolysis.


In the original trial, we enrolled patients with a lower-limb amputation and established phantom pain. Each received a single-injection femoral and sciatic nerve block with lidocaine and was subsequently randomized to receive either ultrasound-guided percutaneous cryoneurolysis or sham treatment at these same locations. Investigators, participants, and clinical staff were masked to treatment group assignment with the exception of the treating physician performing the cryoneurolysis, who had no subsequent participant interaction. At both baseline and 4 months (primary end point), participants rated their phantom limb pain based on a numeric rating scale (NRS) and their interference of pain on physical and emotional functioning as measured with the Brief Pain Inventory’s interference subscale. They subsequently qualitatively defined the change using the 7-point ordinal Patient Global Impression of Change (PGIC). The smallest clinically meaningful improvements in phantom limb pain and Brief Pain Inventory scores were calculated using an anchor-based method based on the PGIC.


The median (interquartile range [IQR]) phantom pain NRS (0–10) improvements at 4 months considered small, medium, and large were 1 [1–1], 3 [3–4], and 4 [3–6], respectively. The median improvements in the Brief Pain Inventory interference subscale (0–70) associated with a small, medium, and large analgesic changes were 16 [6–18], 24 [22–31], and 34 [22–46]. The proportions of patients that experienced PGIC ≥5 were 33% and 36% in the active and placebo groups, respectively. The relative risk of a patient experiencing PGIC ≥5 in the active group compared to the sham group with 95% confidence interval was 0.9 (0.6–1.4), P = .667.


Amputees with phantom limb pain treated with percutaneous cryoneurolysis rate analgesic improvements as clinically meaningful similar to pharmacologic treatments, although their MCID for the Brief Pain Inventory was somewhat larger than previously published values. This information on patient-defined clinically meaningful improvements will facilitate interpretation of available studies and guide future trial design.

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