The effectiveness of various computer-based interventions for patients with chronic pain or functional somatic syndromes: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Miel A. P. Vugts, Margot C. W. Joosen, Jessica E. van der Geer, Aglaia M. E. E. Zedlitz, Hubertus J. M. Vrijhoef

Research output: Contribution to journalScientific review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Computer-based interventions target improvement of physical and emotional functioning in patients with chronic pain and functional somatic syndromes. However, it is unclear to what extent which interventions work and for whom. This systematic review and meta-analysis (registered at PROSPERO, 2016: CRD42016050839) assesses efficacy relative to passive and active control conditions, and explores patient and intervention factors. Controlled studies were identified from MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychInfo, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library. Pooled standardized mean differences by comparison type, and somatic symptom, health-related quality of life, functional interference, catastrophizing, and depression outcomes were calculated at post-treatment and at 6 or more months follow-up. Risk of bias was assessed. Sub-group analyses were performed by patient and intervention characteristics when heterogeneous outcomes were observed. Maximally, 30 out of 46 eligible studies and 3,387 participants were included per meta-analysis. Mostly, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapies were identified. Significantly higher patient reported outcomes were found in comparisons with passive control groups (standardized mean differences ranged between -.41 and -.18), but not in comparisons with active control groups (SMD = -.26 - -.14). For some outcomes, significant heterogeneity related to patient and intervention characteristics. To conclude, there is a minority of good quality evidence for small positive average effects of computer-based (cognitive) behavior change interventions, similar to traditional modes. These effects may be sustainable. Indications were found as of which interventions work better or more consistently across outcomes for which patients. Future process analyses are recommended in the aim of better understanding individual chances of clinically relevant outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0196467
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018

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