Study protocol for targeted interventions to prevent chronic low back pain in high-risk patients: A multi-site pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial (TARGET Trial)

Anthony Delitto, Charity G. Patterson, Joel M. Stevans, Gerard P. Brennan, Stephen T. Wegener, David C. Morrisette, Jason M. Beneciuk, Jennifer A. Freel, Kate I. Minick, Stephen J. Hunter, Patti L. Ephraim, Michael Friedman, Kit N. Simpson, Steven Z. George, Kelly N. Daley, Michael C. Albert, Marie Tamasy, Jewel Cash, D. Scott Lake, Janet K. FreburgerCarol M. Greco, Linda J. Hough, Jong Hyeon Jeong, Samannaaz S. Khoja, Michael J. Schneider, Gwendolyn A. Sowa, Wendy A. Spigle, Ajay D. Wasan, William G. Adams, Chelsey M. Lemaster, Rebecca G. Mishuris, Dorothy L. Plumb, Charles T. Williams, Robert B. Saper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most prevalent and potentially disabling conditions for which people seek health care. Patients, providers, and payers agree that greater effort is needed to prevent acute LBP from transitioning to chronic LBP. Methods and study design: The TARGET (Targeted Interventions to Prevent Chronic Low Back Pain in High-Risk Patients) Trial is a primary care-based, multisite, cluster randomized, pragmatic trial comparing guideline-based care (GBC) to GBC + referral to Psychologically Informed Physical Therapy (PIPT) for patients presenting with acute LBP and identified as high risk for persistent disabling symptoms. Study sites include primary care clinics within each of five geographical regions in the United States, with clinics randomized to either GBC or GBC + PIPT. Acute LBP patients at all clinics are risk stratified (high, medium, low) using the STarT Back Tool. The primary outcomes are the presence of chronic LBP and LBP-related functional disability determined by the Oswestry Disability Index at 6 months. Secondary outcomes are LBP-related processes of health care and utilization of services over 12 months, determined through electronic medical records. Study enrollment began in May 2016 and concluded in June 2018. The trial was powered to include at least 1860 high-risk patients in the randomized controlled trial cohort. A prospective observational cohort of approximately 6900 low and medium-risk acute LBP patients was enrolled concurrently. Discussion: The TARGET pragmatic trial aims to establish the effectiveness of the stratified approach to acute LBP intervention targeting high-risk patients with GBC and PIPT. Trial Registration: NCT02647658 Registered Jan. 6, 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
StatePublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Low back pain
  • Pragmatic clinical trial
  • Primary care
  • Psychologically informed physical therapy
  • Quality improvement
  • STarT Back Tool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Study protocol for targeted interventions to prevent chronic low back pain in high-risk patients: A multi-site pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial (TARGET Trial)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this