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Open Access Research article

A modified score to identify and discriminate neuropathic pain: a study on the German version of the neuropathic pain symptom inventory (NPSI)

Claudia Sommer1*, Helmut Richter2, Jan P Rogausch1, Jule Frettlöh2, Margitta Lungenhausen2 and Christoph Maier2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, University of Würzburg, Germany

2 Department of Pain Management, BGliches Universitätsklinikum Bergmannsheil, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:104  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-104

Published: 23 August 2011



Neuropathic pain must be correctly diagnosed for optimal treatment. The questionnaire named Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI) was developed in its original French version to evaluate the different symptoms of neuropathic pain. We hypothesized that the NPSI might also be used to differentiate neuropathic from non-neuropathic pain.


We translated the NPSI into German using a standard forward-backward translation and administered it in a case-control design to patients with neuropathic (n = 68) and non-neuropathic pain (headache and osteoarthritis, n = 169) to validate it and to analyze its discriminant properties, its sensitivity to change, and to detect neuropathic pain subgroups with distinct profiles.


Using a sum score (the NPSI-G score), we found sensitivity to change (r between 0.37 and 0.5 for pain items of the graded chronic pain scale) and could distinguish between neuropathic and other pain on a group basis, but not for individual patients. Post hoc development of a discriminant score with optimized diagnostic properties to distinguish neuropathic pain from non-neuropathic pain resulted in an instrument with high sensitivity (91%) and acceptable specificity (70%). We detected six different pain profiles in the patient group with neuropathic pain; three profiles were found to be distinct.


The NPSI-G potentially combines the properties of a diagnostic tool and an instrument to identify subtypes of neuropathic pain.