Classification algorithm for the International Classification of Diseases-11 chronic pain classification: Development and results from a preliminary pilot evaluation

Beatrice Korwisi (Lead / Corresponding author), Ginea Hay, Nadine Attal, Qasim Aziz, Michael I. Bennett, Rafael Benoliel, Milton Cohen, Stefan Evers, Maria Adele Giamberardino, Stein Kaasa, Eva Kosek, Patricia Lavandʼhomme, Michael Nicholas, Serge Perrot, Stephan Schug, Blair H. Smith, Peter Svensson, Johan W. S. Vlaeyen, Shuu-Jiun Wang, Rolf-Detlef TreedeWinfried Rief, Antonia Barke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The International Classification of Diseases-11 (ICD-11) chronic pain classification includes about 100 chronic pain diagnoses on different diagnostic levels. Each of these diagnoses requires specific operationalized diagnostic criteria to be present. The classification comprises more than 200 diagnostic criteria. The aim of the Classification Algorithm for Chronic Pain in ICD-11 (CAL-CP) is to facilitate the use of the classification by guiding users through these diagnostic criteria. The diagnostic criteria were ordered hierarchically and visualized in accordance with the standards defined by the Society for Medical Decision Making Committee on Standardization of Clinical Algorithms. The resulting linear decision tree underwent several rounds of iterative checks and feedback by its developers, as well as other pain experts. A preliminary pilot evaluation was conducted in the context of an ecological implementation field study of the classification itself. The resulting algorithm consists of a linear decision tree, an introduction form, and an appendix. The initial decision trunk can be used as a standalone algorithm in primary care. Each diagnostic criterion is represented in a decision box. The user needs to decide for each criterion whether it is present or not, and then follow the respective yes or no arrows to arrive at the corresponding ICD-11 diagnosis. The results of the pilot evaluation showed good clinical utility of the algorithm. The CAL-CP can contribute to reliable diagnoses by structuring a way through the classification and by increasing adherence to the criteria. Future studies need to evaluate its utility further and analyze its impact on the accuracy of the assigned diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2087-2096
Number of pages10
Issue number7
Early online date20 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • ICD-11
  • chronic pain
  • pain classification
  • classification algorithm
  • decision trees


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