N-of-1 Trials in Neurology: A Systematic Review

Neurology. 2022 Jan 11;98(2):e174-e185. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012998. Epub 2021 Oct 21.


Background and objectives: To perform a systematic review of published N-of-1 trials (e.g., single patient crossover trials) in neurologic disorders, including an assessment of methodologic quality and reporting.

Methods: We searched PubMed, MEDLINE, and Embase from inception date to the December 1, 2019, for reports on N-of-1 trials in neurologic disorders. Basic trial information on design, disease, intervention, analysis, and treatment success was extracted. Strengths and weaknesses of the N-of-1 trials were assessed with the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials extension for N-of-1 trials (CENT) 2015 criteria checklist and the Jadad score as measures of quality and reporting.

Results: We retrieved 40 reports of N-of-1 trials in neurologic disorders (19 individual N-of-1 trials, 21 series of N-of-1 trials). Most N-of-1 trials were performed in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative/movement disorders. Unlike the majority of trials that studied the main symptom(s) of a chronic stable condition, 9 N-of-1 trials studied a stable chronic symptom of a progressive or acute neurologic disorder. Besides pharmacologic interventions, electric stimulation protocols and nutritional products were studied. A mean total CENT score of 20.88 (SD 9.10, range 0-43) and mean total Jadad score of 2.90 (SD 2.15, range 0-5) were found as methodologic measures of quality and reporting across all N-of-1 trials.

Discussion: N-of-1 trials have been reported in numerous neurologic disorders, not only in chronic stable disorders, but also in progressive or acute disorders with a stable symptom. This indicates the emerging therapeutic area of N-of-1 trials in neurology. Methodologic quality and reporting of N-of-1 trials were found to be suboptimal and can easily be improved in future trials by appropriately describing the methods of blinding and randomization and following CENT guidelines. Because most N-of-1 trials remain unreported in medical literature, this systematic review probably represents only the tip of the iceberg of conducted N-of-1 trials in neurologic disorders. In addition to conventional trial designs, N-of-1 trials can help to bridge the gap between research and clinical care by providing an alternative, personalized level 1 evidence base for suitable treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Checklist*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Neurology*