The responsiveness of headache impact scales scored using 'classical' and 'modern' psychometric methods: a re-analysis of three clinical trials

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; *Clinical Trials as Topic; Female; Humans; Male; Migraine Disorders; Psychometrics; Quality of Life; Serotonin Agonists; *Sickness Impact Profile; Sumatriptan; United States


Biostatistics | Epidemiology | Health Services Research


BACKGROUND: While item response theory (IRT) offers many theoretical advantages over classical test theory in the construction and scoring of patient based measures of health few studies compare scales constructed from both methodologies head to head. OBJECTIVE: Compare the responsiveness to treatment of migraine specific scales scored using summated rating scale methods vs. IRT methods.

METHODS: The data came from three clinical studies of migraine treatment that used the Migraine Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MSQ). Five methods of quantifying responsiveness were used to evaluate and compare changes from pre- to post-treatment in MSQ scales scored using Likert and IRT scaling methods.

RESULTS: Changes in all MSQ scale scores from pre- to post-treatment were highly significant in all three studies. A single index scored from the MSQ using IRT methods was determined to be more responsive than any one of the MSQ subscales across the five methods used to quantify responsiveness. Across 13 of the 15 tests (5 responsiveness methods * 3 studies) conducted, the single index scored from the MSQ using IRT methods was the most responsive measure.

CONCLUSIONS: IRT methods increased the responsiveness of the MSQ to the treatment of migraine. The results agree with the psychometric evidence that suggest that it is feasible to score a single index from the MSQ using IRT methods. This approach warrants further testing with other measures of migraine impact.

DOI of Published Version



Qual Life Res. 2003 Dec;12(8):903-12. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation

PubMed ID


Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed