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Test-Retest Reliability of Thermal Temporal Summation Using an Individualized Protocol

      Abstract

      Temporal summation (TS) refers to the increased perception of pain with repetitive noxious stimuli. It is a behavioral correlate of wind-up, the spinal facilitation of recurring C-fiber stimulation. In order to utilize TS in clinical pain research, it is important to characterize TS in a wide range of individuals and to establish its test-retest reliability. Building on a fixed-parameter protocol, we developed an individually adjusted protocol to broadly capture thermally generated TS. We then examined the test-retest reliability of TS within-day (intertrial intervals ranging from 2 to 30 minutes) and between-days (intersession interval of 7 days). We generated TS-like effects in 19 of the 21 participants. Strong correlations were observed across all trials over both days (intraclass correlation [ICC] [A, 10] = .97, 95% confidence level [CL] = .94–.99) and across the initial trials between days (ICC [A, 1] = .83, 95% CL = .58–.93). Repeated measures mixed-effects modeling demonstrated no significant within-day variation and only a small (5 out of 100 points) between-day variation. Finally, a Bland-Altman analysis suggested that TS is reliable across the range of observed scores. Without intervention, thermally-generated TS is generally stable within day and between days.

      Perspective

      Our study introduces a new strategy to generate thermal TS in a high proportion of individuals. This study confirms the test-retest reliability of thermal TS, supporting its use as a consistent behavioral correlate of central nociceptive facilitation.

      Key words

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