Properties of pain assessment tools for use in people living with stroke: systematic review

Sophie Amelia Edwards, Antreas Ioannou, Gail Carin-Levy, Eileen Cowey, Marian Brady, Sarah Morton, Tonje A. Sande, Gillian Mead, Terence J. Quinn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Pain is a common problem after stroke and is associated with poor outcomes. There is no consensus on the optimal method of pain assessment in stroke. A review of the properties of tools should allow an evidence based approach to assessment.

Objectives: We aimed to systematically review published data on pain assessment tools used in stroke, with particular focus on classical test properties of: validity, reliability, feasibility, responsiveness.

Methods: We searched multiple, cross-disciplinary databases for studies evaluating properties of pain assessment tools used in stroke. We assessed risk of bias using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies tool. We used a modified harvest plot to visually represent psychometric properties across tests.

Results: The search yielded 12 relevant articles, describing 10 different tools (n=1,106 participants). There was substantial heterogeneity and an overall high risk of bias. The most commonly assessed property was validity (eight studies) and responsiveness the least (one study). There were no studies with a neuropathic or headache focus. Included tools were either scales or questionnaires. The most commonly assessed tool was the Faces Pain Scale (FPS) (6 studies). The limited number of papers precluded meaningful meta-analysis at level of pain assessment tool or pain syndrome. Even where common data were available across papers, results were conflicting e.g., two papers described FPS as feasible and two described the scale as having feasibility issues.

Conclusion: Robust data on the properties of pain assessment tools for stroke are limited. Our review highlights specific areas where evidence is lacking and could guide further research to identify the best tool(s) for assessing post-stroke pain. Improving feasibility of assessment in stroke survivors should be a future research target.

Systematic review registration number:PROSPERO CRD42019160679
Original languageEnglish
Article number792
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2020


  • stroke
  • stroke care
  • pain
  • assessment
  • evaluation
  • psychometric


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