Variability in physician prognosis and recommendations after intracerebral hemorrhage

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Abstract

Objective:

To assess physician prognosis and treatment recommendations for intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) and to determine the effect of providing physicians a validated prognostic score.

Methods:

A written survey with 2 ICH scenarios was completed by practicing neurologists and neurosurgeons. Selected factors were randomly varied (patient older vs middle age, Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score 7T vs 11, and presence vs absence of a validated prognostic score). Outcomes included predicted 30-day mortality and recommendations for initial treatment intensity (6-point scale ranging from 1 = comfort only to 6 = full treatment).

Results:

A total of 742 physicians were included (mean age 52, 32% neurosurgeons, 17% female). Physician predictions of 30-day mortality varied widely (mean [range] for the 4 possible combinations of age and GCS were 23% [0%–80%], 35% [0%–100%], 48% [0%–100%], and 58% [5%–100%]). Treatment recommendations also varied widely, with responses encompassing the full range of response options for each case. No physician demographic or personality characteristics were associated with treatment recommendations. Providing a prognostic score changed treatment recommendations, and the effect differed across cases. When the prognostic score suggested 0% chance of functional independence (76-year-old with GCS 7T), the likelihood of treatment limitations was increased (odds ratio [OR] 1.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.12–2.33) compared to no prognostic score. Conversely, if the score suggested a 66% chance of independence (63-year-old with GCS 11), treatment limitations were less likely (OR 0.62, 95% CI 0.43–0.88).

Conclusions:

Physicians vary substantially in ICH prognostic estimates and treatment recommendations. This variability could have a profound effect on life and death decision-making and treatment for ICH.

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