Monday, July 4, 2011

CCTA Only Predicts Revascularizations

This is an interesting systematic review of coronary computer tomography angiography that, I think, shows mostly that the endpoints for cardiology studies need to be re-evaluated.  The conclusion that circulates in the new has been that positive CCTA was highly predictive of coronary events - patients with >1 segment of >50% stenosis on CCTA had an 11.9% annualized rate of coronary "events" when compared to the 1.1% annualized rate of patients without any >50% stenosis.  This generates the 10.74 hazard ratio that has been circulating through the press releases trumpeting the predictive value of CCTA.

Unfortunately, this predictive value is a self-fulfilling prophecy because 62% of their "events" were revascularizations.  If you subtract out the portion that went for revascularization, the remaining all-cause mortality, cardiovascular death, nonfatal MI, UA requiring hospitalization, that's 5% annualized rate.  Still higher than folks without any coronary stenoses at all, but you have to wonder - could we have predicted the population with a 5% cardiovascular morbidity risk without a CCTA?  Does the management decision to perform revascularization confer upon this population a cardiovascular morbidity/mortality benefit?  We are seeing a lot more in the literature showing that medical management is as advantageous as stenting, so, again, I'm not sure what the role of CCTA is - particularly from the Emergency Department.

"Meta-analysis and systematic review of the long-term predictive value of assessment of coronary atherosclerosis by contrast-enhanced coronary computed tomography angiography."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21658564

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ambulance Diversion Kills People? Maybe?

This article got a ton of press - but it tries to take far too simple an approach to far too complicated an issue.  I've done research like this, where you use zip code centroids and calculated distances to nearest hospitals, and it's just one way a blind man describes an elephant.

These authors look retrospectively at all the acute MIs in four California counties, then looked at hospital daily diversion logs for each day from each of those hospitals - and tried to merge them together to prove that if your nearest hospital was on diversion for a lot of the day you had your acute MI, you had worse outcomes.

Their final analysis says, basically, there's a 3-5% difference in 30-day, 90-day, and 1-year mortality if your nearest hospital is on diversion >12 hours in a day vs. if your nearest hospital is on diversion <6 hours per day.  The between 6-12 hour diversion cohort performed identically to the <6 hour per day cohort.  So, I don't know exactly what to make of this.  Their 95% CI almost crosses zero.  Something magical happens at 12 hours that changes your acute MI mortality risk.  So, yes, what the authors are trying to prove is probably true - but this article's data mining and massage can only hypothesize the association, and doesn't prove anything.

"Association Between Ambulance Diversion and Survival Among Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21666277

Friday, July 1, 2011

Algorithmic Approach To Detect Sepsis Fails

I was asked to blog about this little article - since it lies at the intersection of Emergency Medicine and informatics.

So, that feeling you get when you look at a patient who is obviously ill?  Computers don't have that yet.  These folks tried to encapsulate that feeling of "sick" vs. "not sick" into the criteria for severe sepsis, which includes SIRS and hypotension.  The hope was that an algorithmic approach that automatically recognized the vital sign and physiologic criteria for SIRS would trigger reminders to clinicians that would spark them to initiate certain quality care processes sooner.

Out of 33,460 patients processed by the system, 398 triggered the system.  Less than half (46%) of those were true positives.  To follow that up, they tried to evaluate their system for sensitivity and specificity by pulling 1 week's worth of data (1,386 patients) for closer review - and they found the system generated 6 false positives, 7 true positives, and 4 false negatives.  And those numbers speak for themselves.

Looking back at their four quality measures, they all showed a trend towards improvement - unfortunately three of their four quality measures don't even have a theoretical connection to improved outcomes.  Chest x-ray, blood cultures, and measuring a serum lactate are all clinically relevant in certain situations, but they are all diagnostic and management decisions independent of "quality".  Antibiotic administration, however, is part of EGDT for sepsis (for what it's worth), and that trended towards improvement (OR 2.8, CI 0.9 to 8.6).  

But the final killer?  "In approximately half of patients electronically detected, patients had been detected by caregivers earlier".  So, clinicians were receiving automated pages suggesting they might consider an infectious cause to hypotension, probably while already placing central lines for septic shock.

Great concept - but automated systems just don't yet have robust, rapid, high-quality inputs like those a clinician gets just by walking in the room.  But, EM physicians in busy departments overlook things - and a well-designed system might in the future help catch some of those misses.

"Prospective Trial of Real-Time Electronic Surveillance to Expedite Early Care of Severe Sepsis."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time To Let ABCD2 Die

The problem - the most difficult clinical situations are the ones where we need a handy decision tool - and the hardest to come up with an effective one.  Syncope rules, PE prediction rules, ACS prediction rules, and now TIA evaluation.

The most important number to come out of this paper is probably 1.8% - the number of patients with a TIA who went on to have a stroke in the next seven days.  That's 38 out of their 2056 patients enrolled.  The next number is 2.7%, which is the 56 patients who had another TIA within 7 days.  So somehow a rule has to magically pick out that tiny proportion of patients who are going to have bad outcomes without excessively testing the remaining supermajority.

Nearly everyone had a CT of the head, nearly everyone had an EKG, very few (15% with an ABCD2 score ≤ 5 and 22.% with a score > 5) had consultation with a neurologist, and even fewer were admitted.  The specificity for stroke within 7 days with a score >2 - the AHA definition of "high risk" - is only 12.5%.  Not only that, but there was significant disagreement between enrolling physicians and the study center regarding the correct ABCD2 score for a patient.

So, in the end, ABCD2 is difficult to apply and only minimally useful.  You're going to miss half the strokes at 7 days if you apply it in a situation where the specificity is >50% - so, sure, a sky-high score tells you they're in trouble, but that still doesn't help you discharge the majority of your TIAs safely for outpatient follow-up.

"Prospective validation of the ABCD2 score for patients in the emergency department with transient ischemic attack."
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21646462

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surfactant for Hydrocarbon Aspiration

I've seen surfactant administered for alveolar collapse following near-drowning, but this is a case report regarding surfactant use in severe pneumonitis after low viscosity/low volatility lamp oil.  Less than 1mL of similar aspirated hydrocarbons may result in significant lung injury.  In their specific case they administered 80 mL/m2 of surfactant intratracheally as rescue therapy when their patient continued to become hypoxemic despite recruitment maneuvers on mechanical ventilation.

Definitely something to keep in mind depending on the pathophysiology of the lung injury.

"Early administration of intratracheal surfactant (Calfactant) after hydrocarbon aspiration."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21624880

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kids Are Too Fat For The Broselow Tape Now

Now that increasing numbers of children are overweight and obese (up to 36% of 10 to 17 year olds now), 53% of this pediatric sample from West Virginia fell out of the Broselow tape estimate based on height.  Of these, 77.1% of the incorrect weights were greater than that predicted by the Broselow.

It is West Virginia - not the healthiest state in the U.S. - but any hospital that serves a predominantly disadvantaged population may have similar results, and should realize that they may be under dosing their medications.  The authors suggest only a couple alternative strategies, but I think we're probably just best off using clinical judgement as to whether the tape is accurate in each individual clinical situation.

"Is the Broselow tape a reliable indicator for use in all pediatric trauma patients?"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21629149

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Mortality Burden of Homelessness

Anyone working in the Emergency Department knows that homelessness and psychiatric disorders go hand-in-hand - and that also goes psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.  This study confirms what we already know about the prevalence of these issues in the homeless population.

The most interesting number I read out of it was that the life expectancy of a homeless male aged 15-24 years was 38.7, and 47.4 for similarly aged homeless females - compared to life expectancies of 60.3 and 64.8 in their general population.  It makes me wonder how much of that life expectancy difference is just the homelessness, or whether it's the psychiatric and substance abuse disorders - I would probably say most of that difference is made up with the substance abuse.

"Psychiatric disorders and mortality among people in homeless shelters in Denmark: a nationwide register-based cohort study."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21676456

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pediatric Sexual History Should Not Be Neglected

I am torn regarding whether 82% represents appropriate performance on history taking in pediatric adolescent (ages 14 - 19) lower abdominal pain/dysuria/vaginal complaint, or whether that remaining 18% represents potentially uncaptured pathology.  Considering that 76% of patients asked regarding sexual history reported sexual activity, and 83% of their subgroup completing anonymous questionnaires reported sexual activity, I think >90% enquiry regarding sexual activity would be a better target.

So, we're doing a pretty good job - but it could be better.

"Sexual history documentation in adolescent emergency department patients."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21646260

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ceftaroline - The New Wonder Drug

Don't use it.

If you're like me, every journal you pick up nowadays has a three page glossy fold-out of some confident-looking fake doctor showing off the new broad-spectrum magic medicine, ceftaroline fosamil (Teflaro).  600mg IV q12, ask your doctor if you should be receiving Teflaro.

So, finally, when I got a booklet mailed to my house, I gave in and looked at the literature.  And, I was almost legitimately defeated by the literature because most of the recent, relevant published literature regarding outcomes in the phase III trials...is written by employees of Forest Laboratories and published in a special "clinical supplement" to an infectious disease journal.  There isn't much data out there that isn't just advertising.

However, my survey of the animal studies, and presuming the human studies aren't blatantly made up, seems to indicate this is a great antibiotic.  It doesn't work against VRE, pseudomonas, ESBL e. coli, ESBL klebsiella, or acinetobacter, but it's active against many strains of MRSA, DNS MRSA, and VISA, along with the other strep and staph we worry about.

Which is exactly why we shouldn't use this antibiotic - it's so good it should be on every hospital's formulary, but locked in a vault with the same key system a nuclear launch requires.  Keep it as third- or fourth-line to prevent additional resistances.  But, don't use it.

Sadly, the article I have for you is just a review of all the manufacturer-supported data - but at least it's not written by them.

"Ceftaroline: a comprehensive update."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21420284

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Patients Bleed When On Aspirin and Plavix

And they bleed a heck of a lot more on Plavix than Aspirin.  This is probably the first article I've ever read out of Academic Dermatology, and it's mildly relevant to EM in the sense that we perform a lot of minor cutaneous procedures - suturing, I&D, etc.

This is a retrospective review of bleeding associated with minor surgical dermatology, and, the good news, it was rare - at 0.3% of cases on clopidogrel, and even rarer on aspirin alone, and then zero when on neither.  Bleeding doesn't stress us out as much, probably, so this isn't practice changing.  They do importantly mention in their discussion that holding/changing these medications prior to the procedure can be associated with thrombotic complications - I wouldn't be rushing off to give DDAVP to wake any platelets up if I ran into procedural troubles.

"Complications of cutaneous surgery in patients taking clopidogrel-containing anticoagulation."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21514003

Monday, June 20, 2011

Public Insurance Places Children At Risk

Determining proper payment for healthcare services is a fascinating problem of substantial complexity, and, with the "Affordable Care Act" and various past and future movements towards public insurance, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding physician payment - both in the amount (public vs. private insurance) or whether (uncompensated care in hospitals, emergency departments).

This is a very interesting study out of NEJM that is applicable to the 70 to 80% of emergency departments we send home with instructions to "follow-up with X".  They nicely demonstrate that, in Chicago, at least, "follow-up with X" is nearly trivially easy with private insurance, and much more difficult if funded by one of their Medicaid providers for children.  Excepting child psychiatry - which is in shortage - when calling a specialist for follow-up claiming to have private insurance, their research assistants could schedule an appointment well over 90% of the time.  Alternatively, when stating they had public insurance for their child, ability to follow-up ranged from 20 to 57%, depending on the specialty.

Not only that, public insurance patients waited a mean of 42 days for their appointment versus 22 days for private insurance, when they looked at clinics that would even accept that insurance option.

And, the clinical scenarios they presented for follow-up were not just routine new patient appointments - they were pediatric patients with legitimate uncontrolled morbid disease with the potential to significantly worsen and impact their overall health.

I don't have a solution to a complex social, financial, and political problem with complex social, financial, and political obstacles - but the more good articles like this are published, the more likely smart folks will start working on solutions.

"Auditing access to specialty care for children with public insurance."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21675891

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do Not Use Etomidate/Fentanyl For Orthopedic Reduction In Children

Sometimes, when I read a study, I think to myself - great study!  If only they had sufficient enrollment to have power and validity!  When I read this study, I thought, Heavens to Betsy - I am so glad they only subjected 12 patients to etomidate/fentanyl for sedation.

This is comparing ketamine/midazolam to etomidate/fentanyl for procedural sedation and the authors hoped that, perhaps, the shorter duration of action of etomidate would make it a viable alternative.  But, it isn't.  Objective measures of procedural distress favored ketamine, parents favored ketamine, and the practitioners favored ketamine.  Sedation time and recovery time favored etomidate - but at what cost?  18% of the ketamine group had an adverse event (vomiting, emergency reaction), while 50% of the etomidate group did (hypoxemia, etc.)

Propofol/fentanyl may be considered, but not etomidate/fentanyl.

"Ketamine/midazolam versus etomidate/fentanyl procedural sedation for pediatric orthopedic reductions."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20502386

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sensitivity of CT Angiography for Aneurysms

Not exactly the article I was expecting when I pulled it, but mildly interesting nonetheless.  The real applicability of this article is towards those folks who say the LP for SAH is outdated, and we should just proceed with CTA to identify the culprit aneurysm.

As opponents say, many aneurysms identified by CTA are asymptomatic and unrelated to the acute headache in the Emergency Department, and, without the LP, you don't know their clinical relevance.  This study lets them also say that CTA doesn't even necessarily perform well enough at this task to warrant use - it will miss 5% of aneurysms and overcall 3.8%.

However, it must be said, this meta-analysis uses data from a number of old studies that have older CT scanners that were very poor at detecting <4mm aneurysms.  Once you get to 16 and 64 row CT, your sensitivity is closer to 98-99% - and then you have to fall back to the asymptomatic/clinical relevance argument.

"Diagnosing cerebral aneurysms by computed tomographic angiography: meta-analysis"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21391230

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Neurothrombectomy Devices - Still Not The Answer

Catheter-based endovascular treatment of acute ischemic stroke has been around for several years - this is a nice, concise review of the published literature regarding their use.

The abstract sounds a little more favorably skewed than the actual content of the article - their discussion is appropriately skeptical regarding the efficacy and applicability of this particular treatment modality.  It is certainly true that restoring flow to affected regions in stroke is advantageous, and the theory behind the use of these devices is to mechanically ensure open vessels in situations where systemic thrombolysis may not be efficacious and the disability is likely to be profound.

The problem is, there really isn't any "evidence" in this article.  The published literature on this topic is primarily retrospective cohort/case-reports by industry-affiliated inventors of these devices and, even despite this bias, that literature tends to report unacceptable levels of procedural complications while trying desperately to show benefit.

Regardless, as the authors mention, there are many studies of MERCI and Penumbra ongoing - slowly chasing that inexorable statistical probability of finally performing enough studies that, by chance, one of them will be favorable enough upon which to base widespread marketing efforts.

"Neurothrombectomy devices for the treatment of acute ischemic stroke: state of the evidence"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21242342

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Patients With Brugada May Have Normal EKGs ...and Then Drop Dead

The sodium-channelopathy that went many years before being described, now increasingly well-known.  More interestingly, the phenotype is apparently autosomal dominant in inheritance.  These investigators use this inheritance to retroactively diagnose deceased family members with a Brugada cause to their sudden cardiac death.

They found, unfortunately, that not only were most individuals who died of Brugada young, most were asymptomatic - and of the five patients for whom they could find an antemortem EKG, only one of them had a typical Type I Brugada pattern, and one had a single lead with a Type III pattern.

I think my take-home point from this article is that, in the young patients presenting with syncope, it's important not just to do the EKG, but also to enquire regarding family history of sudden cardiac death - and then hope whatever cardiologist you refer them to is insightful enough to order a amajaline provocation test if needed.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21636035

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Significant Populations Have No Timely Access to Stroke, Pediatric Trauma Care

These are a couple studies from a family of publications that use population data, GIS mapping tools, and travel times by air and ground to estimate what percentage of the population has access to a certain healthcare resource.  In these two papers, the resources in question are Primary Stroke Centers and Pediatric Trauma Centers.  They estimate that 71% of the pediatric population is within 60 minutes of a pediatric trauma center by ground or air - which is appropriate, because trauma systems are set up to use aeromedical transport.  However - and, depending on what direction the TPA pendulum swings - only 55.4% of the population has access to a stroke center within 60 minutes - by ground, which is typical.  They say this could be increased to 79% within 60 minutes if aeromedical resources were involved, but I think we should wait to establish a greater treatment effect for acute stroke treatment before we go nuts with air travel.

I like maps; I worked with one of the authors (Dr. Branas) on previous iterations of descriptive articles similar to these.  The problem with these articles is the statistic they describe - timeliness of care - may or may not have significant effects on patient outcomes.  And, in theory, the solutions - moving trauma center designations, establishing new stroke centers, increasing aeromedical use, etc., have significant costs and unintended consequences.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20937948
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19487606

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shoulder Reduction - Spanish-Style

Another interesting article regarding shoulder reduction techniques.

Essentially, what I read into shoulder reduction is that - if there many usually successful ways to do something, pretty much anything works.  And, what seems to be the generally accepted way to do it - excepting the scapular manipulation technique - is pulling on it.  What is different between methods seems to be how exactly you apply the traction.

This is a single-operator method with direct axial traction on the distal humerus with one hand and counter-traction on the acromium with the other hand.  The trouble I foresee with this method is that you're fighting a lot of large muscles on the patient with your own, smaller, rotator cuff and shoulder abductors.  I think you'd end up fatiguing before a lot of your patients.

The variation I might suggest is the snowbird technique, where you use the weight of your leg to provide downward traction via stockinette around the forearm.  You can sometimes get away from having to do full procedural sedation if you can perform a technique like this where the patient fatigues before you do.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21620607

Saturday, June 11, 2011

rFactor VII Is Not Safe (Despite Their Conclusions)

When NovoNordisk writes an article analyzing safety data from the CONTROL trial, you get a skewed perspective on the data.  Specifically, if you only read the abstract, you're going to think that it's safer in some ways(ARDS was less), and there was no difference in adverse events (except for all that investigator-reported AMI/NSTEMI).  So, that sounds favorable.

But, the real reason there's no significant differences in outcomes - and the reason why they terminated the trial early - is because the interim data is underpowered to detect a difference.  As you see, the 30-day mortality is 12% vs 11% in favor of placebo - and that wasn't helping NovoNordisk, so they quit before they could reach sufficient statistical power to prove their product was unhelpful.  However, they can now benefit from that same lack of power to detect differences by applying it to the safety aspect, and trumpeting its equivalency in terms of AEs.

When taken in the context of the original trial, this is just a flawed piece of pharmaceutical propaganda to try and prevent the building crackdown on off-label Factor VII use.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21610529

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Single Troponin After 8 Hours of Symptoms

The ACEP guidelines still have, as level B recommendations, that a single cardiac biomaker "8 to 12 hours" after symptom onset is adequate to exclude the diagnosis of NSTEMI.

This study looked at all of Highland's patients that received more than one troponin measurement in their ED.  Then, they looked at all the patients with initially negative troponins, and subsequently positive ones.  And, finally, they tried to see how many of those had symptoms >8 hours.  Their definitions are that troponins <0.06 ng/mL are negative, between 0.06 and 0.6 are indeterminate, and >0.6 are positive.

After starting with 5,596 patients, they had 125 that were negative initially, and then positive.  And, for symptoms greater than 8 hours, a grand total of seven troponins ≤0.06 ng/mL and then subsequently positive, and 18 others that were indeterminate and then subsequently positive.  They then say only two had a diagnosis of ACS.

Regardless, despite the size of the study, when you start talking about these sorts of tiny numbers and getting into splitting hairs on the diagnosis, you're basically working on anecdotal evidence.  So, take it with a grain of salt - you're usually safe in a patient with that symptom duration, but you're working off mostly consensus opinion as opposed to great evidence.

More interesting, really, would be some kind of follow-up on the 1,086 patients that were discharged after a single negative troponin (many of which probably fulfilled the >8 hour criterion) - but there's no way to actually make that sort of follow happen realistically.

http://www.hindawi.com/isrn/cardiology/2011/364728/

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CT Coronary Angiography Screening Is Not Beneficial

Disclaimer: I despise CCTA for low-risk chest pain in the ED.  It leads to additional unnecessary testing, interventions, and harms that outweigh the risk of coronary events in its target population.  Our liability-sensitive practice has us evaluating an ever-increasing cohort of low- and (mostly) zero-risk young chest pain patients, and this is purported to be a test of choice for identifying a zero-zero risk population.

But there are just far too many false positives that have coronary artery disease of uncertain clinical significance.

This is a Korean study that compared 1000 matched controls that did not undergo CCTA with 1000 who did.  215 asymptomatic patients had positive CCTA - defined as any atherosclerotic plaque.  52 had >50% stenosis and 21 had >75% stenosis.

Their control cohort and their CCTA cohort were very similar - and 55-59% low risk, 34-29% intermediate, and 10% high risk based on NCEP risk stratification.

And their control group had a grand total of 1 cardiac event within their 18 month follow-up period, as did a single person in their positive CCTA group.  However, the CCTA group ended up with more additional testing and cardiac revascularization procedures during their follow-up time frames - with no change in outcomes.

Now, these are asymptomatic patients chosen for screening - not the same as our chest pain patients in the ED - but it's another call for caution regarding overtesting and overtreating.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Move Over MRSA - It's VISA and VRSA Time

Is it too late to buy stock in the company that makes linezolid?

This group up in Detroit reviewed 320 patients with MRSA bacteremia and found that 52.5% experienced Vancomycin failure.  Their conclusion states several significant OR for failure, but review of the between-group differences doesn't show a lot of significant differences.  Nursing homes, for example, were the only p < 0.05, and predicted vancomycin success with a p of 0.02.

What is more important than their clinical predictors, however, is their review of the bactericidal activity of vancomycin - and that higher MICs and higher troughs are needed to effectively treat patients.  I've seen our pharmacists recognize this at my hospital as well - the 1g IV Vancomycin standard initial load is transitioning to a weight-based dose.

But, more importantly, what we're probably really observing is the initial stages of the end of vancomycin's utility for MRSA.  And, I hate to see what happens when TMP/SMX stops working, too....

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21460309

Monday, June 6, 2011

Overdiagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism

Another over-testing over-diagnosis article effectively illustrating issues endemic to our current medical culture.

They do a retrospective national database review regarding the impact of the introduction of CTPA protocol for rule-out PE, and note that we've diagnosed three times as many PEs in 2006 as we did in 1998.  And, by detecting more PEs, we managed to reduce mortality attributed to PE...along the same gradually decreasing trendline that was present prior to the introduction of CTPA.

Figure 2 is the truly damning graphic - look at all those extra PEs we're finding and treating for effectively no substantial benefit.  Their secondary analysis was in-hospital anticoagulation complications on patients with any diagnosis of PE, which has jumped 71%.  Thank goodness we can put them on dagibatran now instead of coumadin and not be able to reverse their life-threatening bleeding episodes....

Again, we are testing people who shouldn't be testing, finding disease of uncertain clinical significance, and harming them with overtreatment - and let's not even start with the costs.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21555660

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Physician Perception of Ethnicity Preferences at End Of Life

I'm not sure what this paper definitely adds to the body of literature, but it's been awhile since I read anything on this topic, so I thought it was interesting.

I will give the disclaimer that this has been my limited anecdotal experience during my time in MICU, SICU, PICU etc., that certain ethnic groups were less likely to be amenable to withdrawal of care discussions, transitions to comfort care, hospice, etc., much to our absolute frustration that we were expending inordinate resources to torture some poor ventilated husk of person with no chance of functional recovery.  This study, in a small single-center sample, more or less confirms that we all share that same perception - but, in theory, it doesn't change our practice.

This study surveyed physicians regarding their perceptions of black vs. white end-stage cancer patients, and they tended to believe that a black person would be more likely to want continued aggressive treatment at the end of life.  The remainder of their article, which is a little more difficult to interpret, basically said that regardless of the perceptions, they still recommended the same (in statistical aggregate) treatment to the black vs. white hypothetical cohorts.

While this study didn't find any measurable treatment differences, we've seen all throughout the literature that perception tends towards reality, and that there are many cases of measurable outcomes differences for different ethnicities.  This study just leaves me with a sour taste and more questions than answers.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21460710