Evidence Mapping Based on Systematic Reviews of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on the Motor Cortex for Neuropathic Pain



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Frontiers in human neuroscience



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evidence mapping, evidence synthesis, motor cortex, neuropathic pain, non-pharmacological, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation


Background and Objective: There is vast published literature proposing repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) technology on the motor cortex (M1) for the treatment of neuropathic pain (NP). Systematic reviews (SRs) focus on a specific problem and do not provide a comprehensive overview of a research area. This study aimed to summarize and analyze the evidence of rTMS on the M1 for NP treatment through a new synthesis method called evidence mapping. Methods: Searches were conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, Epistemonikos, and The Cochrane Library to identify the studies that summarized the effectiveness of rTMS for NP. The study type was restricted to SRs with or without meta-analysis. All literature published before January 23, 2021, was included. Two reviewers independently screened the literature, assessed the methodological quality, and extracted the data. The methodological quality of the included SRs was assessed by using the A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR-2). Data were extracted following a defined population, intervention, comparison, and outcome (PICO) framework from primary studies that included SRs. The same PICO was categorized into PICOs according to interventions [frequency, number of sessions (short: 1-5 sessions, medium: 5-10 sessions, and long: >10 sessions)] and compared. The evidence map was presented in tables and a bubble plot. Results: A total of 38 SRs met the eligibility criteria. After duplicate primary studies were removed, these reviews included 70 primary studies that met the scope of evidence mapping. According to the AMSTAR-2 assessment, the quality of the included SRs was critically low. Of these studies, 34 SRs scored "critically low" in terms of methodological quality, 2 SR scored "low," 1 SR scored "moderate," and 1 SR scored "high." Conclusion: Evidence mapping is a useful methodology to provide a comprehensive and reliable overview of studies on rTMS for NP. Evidence mapping also shows that further investigations are necessary to highlight the optimal stimulation protocols and standardize all parameters to fill the evidence gaps of rTMS. Given that the methodological quality of most included SRs was "critically low," further investigations are advised to improve the methodological quality and the reporting process of SRs.

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