Minimal important difference estimates for patient-reported outcomes: A systematic survey Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: The objective of the study was to develop an inventory summarizing all anchor-based minimal important difference (MID) estimates for patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) available in the medical literature. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and the Patient-Reported Outcome and Quality of Life Instruments Database internal library (January 1989-October 2018). We included primary studies empirically calculating an anchor-based MID estimate for any PROM in adults and adolescents. Pairs of reviewers independently screened and selected studies, extracted data, and evaluated the credibility of the MIDs. RESULTS: We identified 585 eligible studies, the majority conducted in Europe (n = 211) and North America (n = 179), reporting 5,324 MID estimates for 526 distinct PROMs. Investigators conducted their studies in the context of patients receiving surgical (n = 105, 18%), pharmacological (n = 85, 15%), rehabilitation (n = 65, 11%), or a combination of interventions (n = 194, 33%). Of all MID estimates, 59% (n = 3,131) used a global rating of change anchor. Major credibility limitations included weak correlation (n = 1,246, 23%) or no information regarding the correlation (n = 3,498, 66%) between the PROM and anchor and imprecision in the MID estimate (n = 2,513, 47%). CONCLUSION: A large number of MIDs for assisting in the interpretation of PROMs exist. The MID inventory will facilitate the use of MID estimates to inform the interpretation of the magnitude of treatment effects in clinical research and guideline development.

altmetric score

  • 30.4

author list (cited authors)

  • Carrasco-Labra, A., Devji, T., Qasim, A., Phillips, M. R., Wang, Y., Johnston, B. C., ... Guyatt, G. H.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • December 2020