Pain patients in a randomized trial did not show a significant effect of a positive consultation.

P.G. Knipschild*, A. Arntz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To examine whether telling symptomatic patients that they will soon be better shortens the duration of their illness. Study Design and Setting: We repeated an earlier trial in general practice on this subject. All our patients were reassured that they probably had no serious underlying disease. We randomized 128 patients into two groups. Half of them got a clear diagnosis and were told that they would soon be better. The others heard from their general practitioners (GPs) that they probably had no serious underlying disease but that the GP did not know exactly what was wrong; these patients were advised to come back later if necessary. For 78 patients, study protocol was followed exactly. Result: Our trial could not show an effect. The Kaplan-Meier curves of patients with a positive and negative consultation ran nearly parallel. The hazard ratio in the total group was 0.97 (95% precision interval PI = 0.69-1.41) and in the optimal subgroup 0.91 (95% PI = 0.57-1.46). We still cannot rule out a modest placebo effect. Conclusion: Our finding contrasts with that of the earlier trial. We think that symptomatic patients mainly want to know that they do not have a serious problem. Often, they will miss the extra information that they get-and then they certainly cannot benefit from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-713
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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