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Detecting the neuropathic pain component in the clinical setting: a study protocol for validation of screening instruments for the presence of a neuropathic pain component

Hans Timmerman1*, Oliver Wilder-Smith1, Chris van Weel23, André Wolff1 and Kris Vissers1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Medicine, Radboud University medical center, Huispost 717, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, the Netherlands

2 Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University medical center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

3 Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

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BMC Neurology 2014, 14:94  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-94

Published: 2 May 2014



The presence of nerve damage plays a key role in the development and prognosis of chronic pain states. Assessment of the presence and severity of a neuropathic pain component (NePC) is key in diagnosing chronic pain patients. Low back pain (LBP) and neck and shoulder pain (NSP) are highly prevalent and clinically important medical and societal problems in which a NePC is frequently present. The more severe the NePC, the worse the course of the pain, its prognosis and the results of treatment. Reliable and standardised diagnosis of the NePC remains difficult to achieve. Standardized and validated screening tools may help to reliably identify the NePC in individual chronic pain patients. The aim of this study is to validate the Dutch language versions of the PainDETECT Questionnaire (PDQ-Dlv) and the ‘Douleur Neuropathique 4 Questions’ (DN4-Dlv) for use in primary and specialist medical care settings to screen for a NePC in patients with chronic pain due to (1) LBP, (2) NSP or (3) known peripheral nerve damage (PND).


The study design is cross-sectional to assess the validity of the PDQ-Dlv and the DN4-Dlv with 2 weeks follow-up for test-retest reliability and 3 months follow-up for monitoring and prognosis. 438 patients with chronic pain due to (1) LBP, (2) NSP or (3) PND. will be included in this study. Based on the IASP definition of neuropathic pain, two physicians will independently assess whether the patient has a NEPC or not. This result will be compared with the outcome of the PDQ-Dlv & DN4-Dlv, the grading system for neuropathic pain, bed side examination and quantitative sensory testing. This study will further collect data regarding prevalence of NePC, general health status, mental health status, functioning, pain attribution and quality of life.


The rationale for this study is to provide detailed information on the clinimetric quality of the PDQ-Dlv and DN4-Dlv in Dutch speaking countries. Our innovative multi-factorial approach should help achieve more reliable diagnosis and quantification of a NePC in patients with chronic pain.

Trial registration

The Netherlands National Trial Register (NTR3030).

PainDETECT questionnaire; PDQ; DN4; Validation; Low back pain; Neck-shoulder pain; Peripheral nerve damage