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1.  Physician reported perception in the treatment of high blood pressure does not correspond to practice 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:23.
High blood pressure is a significant health problem world-wide. Physician factors play a significant role in the suboptimal control of hypertension in the United States. We sought to better understand primary care physician's opinions regarding use of hypertension guidelines, patient and physician related barriers to treatment and physician treatment decision making in the management of hypertension as part of a first step in developing research tools and interventions designed to address these issues.
An IRB approved survey pertaining to physician opinion regarding the treatment of hypertension. Items consisted of questions regarding: 1) knowledge of hypertension treatment guidelines; 2) barriers to hypertension control (physician vs. patient); and 3) self-estimation of physician treatment of hypertension. Descriptive Statistics were used to describe results.
All physicians were board certified in family or general internal medicine (n = 28). Practices were located in urban (n = 12), suburban (n = 14) and inner city locations (n = 1). All physicians felt they did a good job of treating hypertension. Most physicians felt the biggest barrier to hypertension control was patient non-compliance. Half of physicians would fail to intensify treatment for hypertension when blood pressure was above recommended levels for all disease states studied (essential hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and renal disease).
Physician ability to assess personal performance in the treatment of hypertension and physician opinion that patient noncompliance is the greatest barrier to optimal hypertension control is contradictory to reported practice behavior. Optimal blood pressure control requires increased physician understanding on the evaluation and management of blood pressure. These data provide crucial formative data to enhance the content validity of physician education efforts currently underway to improve the treatment of blood pressure in the primary care setting.
PMCID: PMC2675522  PMID: 19341474
2.  Association between sitting and occupational LBP 
European Spine Journal  2006;16(2):283-298.
Low back pain (LBP) has been identified as one of the most costly disorders among the worldwide working population. Sitting has been associated with risk of developing LBP. The purpose of this literature review is to assemble and describe evidence of research on the association between sitting and the presence of LBP. The systematic literature review was restricted to those occupations that require sitting for more than half of working time and where workers have physical co-exposure factors such as whole body vibration (WBV) and/or awkward postures. Twenty-five studies were carefully selected and critically reviewed, and a model was developed to describe the relationships between these factors. Sitting alone was not associated with the risk of developing LBP. However, when the co-exposure factors of WBV and awkward postures were added to the analysis, the risk of LBP increased fourfold. The occupational group that showed the strongest association with LBP was Helicopter Pilots (OR=9.0, 90% CI 4.9–16.4). For all studied occupations, the odds ratio (OR) increased when WBV and/or awkward postures were analyzed as co-exposure factors. WBV while sitting was also independently associated with non-specific LBP and sciatica. Vibration dose, as well as vibration magnitude and duration of exposure, were associated with LBP in all occupations. Exposure duration was associated with LBP to a greater extent than vibration magnitude. However, for the presence of sciatica, this difference was not found. Awkward posture was also independently associated with the presence of LBP and/or sciatica. The risk effect of prolonged sitting increased significantly when the factors of WBV and awkward postures were combined. Sitting by itself does not increase the risk of LBP. However, sitting for more than half a workday, in combination with WBV and/or awkward postures, does increase the likelihood of having LBP and/or sciatica, and it is the combination of those risk factors, which leads to the greatest increase in LBP.
PMCID: PMC2200681  PMID: 16736200
Sitting; LBP; Sciatica; Epidemiology; Review
3.  Influence of Low Back Pain and Prognostic Value of MRI in Sciatica Patients in Relation to Back Pain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90800.
Patients with sciatica frequently complain about associated back pain. It is not known whether there are prognostic relevant differences in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) findings between sciatica patients with and without disabling back pain.
The study population contained patients with sciatica who underwent a baseline MRI to assess eligibility for a randomized trial designed to compare the efficacy of early surgery with prolonged conservative care for sciatica. Two neuroradiologists and one neurosurgeon independently evaluated all MR images. The MRI readers were blinded to symptom status. The MRI findings were compared between sciatica patients with and without disabling back pain. The presence of disabling back pain at baseline was correlated with perceived recovery at one year.
Of 379 included sciatica patients, 158 (42%) had disabling back pain. Of the patients with both sciatica and disabling back pain 68% did reveal a herniated disc with nerve root compression on MRI, compared to 88% of patients with predominantly sciatica (P<0.001). The existence of disabling back pain in sciatica at baseline was negatively associated with perceived recovery at one year (Odds ratio [OR] 0.32, 95% Confidence Interval 0.18–0.56, P<0.001). Sciatica patients with disabling back pain in absence of nerve root compression on MRI at baseline reported less perceived recovery at one year compared to those with predominantly sciatica and nerve root compression on MRI (50% vs 91%, P<0.001).
Sciatica patients with disabling low back pain reported an unfavorable outcome at one-year follow-up compared to those with predominantly sciatica. If additionally a clear herniated disc with nerve root compression on MRI was absent, the results were even worse.
PMCID: PMC3956604  PMID: 24637890
4.  PRECISE - pregabalin in addition to usual care for sciatica: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:213.
Sciatica is a type of neuropathic pain that is characterised by pain radiating into the leg. It is often accompanied by low back pain and neurological deficits in the lower limb. While this condition may cause significant suffering for the individual, the lack of evidence supporting effective treatments for sciatica makes clinical management difficult. Our objectives are to determine the efficacy of pregabalin on reducing leg pain intensity and its cost-effectiveness in patients with sciatica.
PRECISE is a prospectively registered, double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial of pregabalin compared to placebo, in addition to usual care. Inclusion criteria include moderate to severe leg pain below the knee with evidence of nerve root/spinal nerve involvement. Participants will be randomised to receive either pregabalin with usual care (n = 102) or placebo with usual care (n = 102) for 8 weeks. The medicine dosage will be titrated up to the participant’s optimal dose, to a maximum 600 mg per day. Follow up consultations will monitor individual progress, tolerability and adverse events. Usual care, if deemed appropriate by the study doctor, may include a referral for physical or manual therapy and/or prescription of analgesic medication. Participants, doctors and researchers collecting participant data will be blinded to treatment allocation. Participants will be assessed at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, 8, 12, 26 and 52. The primary outcome will determine the efficacy of pregabalin in reducing leg pain intensity. Secondary outcomes will include back pain intensity, disability and quality of life. Data analysis will be blinded and by intention-to-treat. A parallel economic evaluation will be conducted from health sector and societal perspectives.
This study will establish the efficacy of pregabalin in reducing leg pain intensity in patients with sciatica and provide important information regarding the effect of pregabalin treatment on disability and quality of life. The impact of this research may allow the future development of a cost-effective conservative treatment strategy for patients with sciatica.
Trial registration, ACTRN 12613000530729
PMCID: PMC3711833  PMID: 23845078
Sciatica; Pregabalin; Neuropathic pain; Randomised control trial
5.  Designing an implementation strategy to improve interprofessional shared decision making in sciatica: study protocol of the DISC study 
Sciatica is a common condition worldwide that is characterized by radiating leg pain and regularly caused by a herniated disc with nerve root compression. Sciatica patients with persisting leg pain after six to eight weeks were found to have similar clinical outcomes and associated costs after prolonged conservative treatment or surgery at one year follow-up. Guidelines recommend that the team of professionals involved in sciatica care and patients jointly decide about treatment options, so-called interprofessional shared decision making (SDM). However, there are strong indications that SDM for sciatica patients is not integrated in daily practice. We designed a study aiming to explore the barriers and facilitators associated with the everyday embedding of SDM for sciatica patients. All related relevant professionals and patients are involved to develop a tailored strategy to implement SDM for sciatica patients.
The study consists of two phases: identification of barriers and facilitators and development of an implementation strategy. First, barriers and facilitators are explored using semi-structured interviews among eight professionals of each (para)medical discipline involved in sciatica care (general practitioners, physical therapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and orthopedic surgeons). In addition, three focus groups will be conducted among patients. Second, the identified barriers and facilitators will be ranked using a questionnaire among a representative Dutch sample of 200 GPs, 200 physical therapists, 200 neurologists, all 124 neurosurgeons, 200 orthopedic surgeons, and 100 patients. A tailored team-based implementation strategy will be developed based on the results of the first phase using the principles of intervention mapping and an expert panel.
Little is known about effective strategies to increase the uptake of SDM. Most implementation strategies only target a single discipline, whereas multiple disciplines are involved in SDM among sciatica patients. The results of this study can be used as an example for implementing SDM in other patient groups receiving multidisciplinary complex care (e.g., elderly) and can be generalized to other countries with similar context, thereby contributing to a worldwide increase of SDM in preference sensitive choices.
PMCID: PMC3465186  PMID: 22704251
Sciatica; Lumbar radicular syndrome; Implementation strategy; Shared decision making; Barriers and facilitators; Decision aid
6.  Prognostic factors in non-surgically treated sciatica: A systematic review 
When present sciatica is considered an obstacle to recovery in low back pain patients, yet evidence is limited regarding prognostic factors for persistent disability in this patient group. The aim of this study is to describe and summarise the evidence regarding prognostic factors for sciatica in non-surgically treated cohorts. Understanding the prognostic factors in sciatica and their relative importance may allow the identification of patients with particular risk factors who might benefit from early or specific types of treatment in order to optimise outcome.
A systematic literature search was conducted using Medline, EMBASE and CINAHL electronic databases. Prospective cohort studies describing subjects with sciatica and measuring pain, disability or recovery outcomes were included. Studies of cohorts comprised entirely of surgically treated patients were excluded and mixed surgically and conservatively treated cohorts were included only if the results were analysed separately by treatment group or if the analysis was adjusted for treatment.
Seven adequate or high quality eligible studies were identified. There were conflicting but mainly negative results regarding the influence of baseline pain severity, neurological deficit, nerve root tension signs, duration of symptoms and radiological findings on outcome. A number of factors including age, gender, smoking, previous history of sciatica and heaviness of work do not appear to influence outcome. In contrast to studies of low back pain and purely surgically treated sciatica cohorts, psychological factors were rarely investigated.
At present, the heterogeneity of the available studies makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about sciatica prognosis, and highlights the need for further research for this group of patients. Large scale prospective studies of high methodological quality, using a well-defined, consistent definition of sciatica and investigating psychosocial factors alongside clinical and radiological findings are recommended to identify prognostic factors in this population.
PMCID: PMC3287121  PMID: 21943339
7.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
8.  Reliability of the Path of the Sciatic Nerve, Congruence between Patients' History and Medical Imaging Evidence of Disc Herniation and Its Role in Surgical Decision Making 
Asian Spine Journal  2015;9(2):200-204.
Study Design
The prevalence of disc herniation is estimated to be about 100,000 new cases per year in France and disc herniation accounts for 25% to 30% of surgical activity in Departments of Neurosurgery. Classically, sciatica is expected to follow its specific dermatome-L5 or S1-. In clinical practice, we regularly encounter patients showing discrepancy between clinical sciatica and imaging findings.
The aim of this paper is to review the medical concept and management of sciatica pain in patients showing this discrepancy.
Overview of Literature
To the best of our knowledge, this subject has not yet been discussed in the medical literature.
The medical records of 241 patients who were operated on for L5 or S1 sciatica caused by disc herniation were reviewed.
We found an apparent clinicoradiological discrepancy between sciatica described by patients on one side and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) finding on the other side in 27 (11.20%) patients. We did not find any other abnormalities in the preoperative and postoperative period. All of these patients underwent lumbar discectomy via posterior interlaminar approach. Three months after surgery, 25 patients (92.59%) had been totally relieved of sciatica pain. Two patients (7.41%) continued to experience sciatica in spite of the surgery.
The discrepancy between clinical sciatica and disc herniation level on MRI is not rare. Management of this discrepancy requires further investigation in order to avoid missing the diagnosis and treatment failure.
PMCID: PMC4404533  PMID: 25901230
Sciatica; Radiculopathy; Low back pain; Intervertebral disk degeneration
9.  Personalised medicine in Canada: a survey of adoption and practice in oncology, cardiology and family medicine 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000110.
In order to provide baseline data on genetic testing as a key element of personalised medicine (PM), Canadian physicians were surveyed to determine roles, perceptions and experiences in this area. The survey measured attitudes, practice, observed benefits and impacts, and barriers to adoption.
A self-administered survey was provided to Canadian oncologists, cardiologists and family physicians and responses were obtained online, by mail or by fax. The survey was designed to be exploratory. Data were compared across specialties and geography.
The overall response rate was 8.3%. Of the respondents, 43%, 30% and 27% were family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists, respectively. A strong majority of respondents agreed that genetic testing and PM can have a positive impact on their practice; however, only 51% agreed that there is sufficient evidence to order such tests. A low percentage of respondents felt that they were sufficiently informed and confident practicing in this area, although many reported that genetic tests they have ordered have benefited their patients. Half of the respondents agreed that genetic tests that would be useful in their practice are not readily available. A lack of practice guidelines, limited provider knowledge and lack of evidence-based clinical information were cited as the main barriers to practice. Differences across provinces were observed for measures relating to access to testing and the state of practice. Differences across specialties were observed for the state of practice, reported benefits and access to testing.
Canadian physicians recognise the benefits of genetic testing and PM; however, they lack the education, information and support needed to practice effectively in this area. Variability in practice and access to testing across specialties and across Canada was observed. These results support a need for national strategies and resources to facilitate physician knowledge, training and practice in PM.
Article summary
Article focus
Canadian physicians' perceptions and experience relating to genetic testing and personalised medicine (PM).
Practice and impact of genetic testing and PM in Canada and across specialties.
Implications for continued adoption of genetic testing and PM in Canada across specialties.
Key messages
Family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists across Canada are practicing PM and recognise its benefits and potential impacts.
Physicians reported a number of barriers to the adoption of PM that are currently affecting medical practice in Canada.
The practice of and access to genetic testing and PM varies across specialties and provinces, which will have an impact on their continued adoption.
Strengths and limitations of this study
First national survey of physicians on this topic
Allows for a baseline measure of practice for comparison in future studies
Medical discipline specific study
Administration of the survey over the period 26 May to 15 September 2010 may have negatively influenced the response rate.
There may have been differences in respondents based on the medium used to complete the survey (electronic vs paper-based).
The topic of genetic testing and personalised medicine may not have been relevant to all physicians who were sent the survey, which may have negatively affected the response rate.
All survey results were based on physicians' self-reports.
The physician contact information was purchased through a third party and some data were incomplete or inaccurate.
PMCID: PMC3191410  PMID: 22021765
Medical care  2014;52(4):294-299.
Due to internet searches, advice from friends and pharmaceutical advertising, especially direct-to-consumer advertising, patients are increasingly activated to request medications during a physician encounter.
To estimate the effect of patient requests for medications on physician prescribing behavior, unconfounded by patient ,physician and practice setting factors.
Research Design
Two experiments were conducted among 192 primary care physicians, each using different video-based scenarios; an undiagnosed “patient” with symptoms strongly suggesting sciatica, and a “patient” with already diagnosed chronic knee osteoarthritis. Half of patients with sciatica symptoms requested oxycodone, while the other half requested something to help with pain. Similarly, half of knee osteoarthritis patients specifically requested Celebrex and half requested something to help with pain.
To increase generalizability and ensure sufficient numbers were available, we recuited 192 Primary Care Physicians from 6 US states.
The primary outcome was whether physicians would accede to a patient’s request for a medication. Alternative pain medications prescribed were secondary outcomes.
19.8% of sciatica patients requesting oxycodone would receive a prescription for oxycodone, compared with 1% of those making no specific request (p=0.001). 53% of knee osteoarthritis patients requesting Celebrex would receive it, compared with 24% of patients making no request (p=0.001). Patients requesting oxycodone were more likely to receive a strong narcotic (p=0.001) and less likely to receive a weak narcotic (p=0.01). Patients requesting Celebrex were much less likely to receive a non-selective NSAID (p=0.008). No patient attributes, physician or organizational factors influenced a physician’s willingness to accede to a patient’s medication request.
In both scenarios, activated patient requests for a medication substantially affected physician prescribing decisions, despite the drawbacks of the requested medications.
PMCID: PMC4151257  PMID: 24848203
Direct to consumer; patient activation; disparities
11.  Barriers to effective diagnosis and management of a bleeding patient with undiagnosed bleeding disorder across multiple specialties: results of a quantitative case-based survey 
Bleeding symptoms commonly seen by multiple physician specialties may belie undiagnosed congenital or acquired bleeding disorders. Acquired hemophilia is a potentially life-threatening cause of unexplained acute bleeding manifested by an abnormal activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) that does not correct with 1:1 mixing with normal plasma.
Practicing physicians (hematology/oncology, emergency medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, rheumatology, obstetrics and gynecology, critical care medicine, and general surgery) completed an online survey based on a hypothetical case scenario.
Excluding surgeons and obstetrician/gynecologist respondents, 302 physicians (about 50 per specialty) were presented with an older adult woman complaining of recurrent epistaxis. Nearly 90% ordered a complete blood count and coagulation studies (aPTT, prothrombin time [PT]/international normalized ratio [INR]). Despite a prolonged aPTT of 42 seconds, <50% of nonhematologists would repeat the aPTT, and <45% would consult a hematologist; emergency medicine physicians were least likely (10%) and rheumatologists were most likely (43%) to consult. After presentation weeks later with bruising and abdominal/back pain, ≥90% of physicians within each specialty ordered a complete blood count or PT/INR/aPTT. Despite an aPTT of 63 seconds, the majority did not repeat the aPTT. At this point, approximately 75% of internal medicine and geriatric physicians indicated they would consult a hematologist, versus 47% in emergency medicine and 50% in critical care. All participants preferred abdominal computed tomography (80%–84%). After 12 hours of additional observation, 73% to 94% of respondents consulted a hematologist. Complete blood count revealed anemia and an aPTT twice the upper limit of normal; emergency medicine physicians remained least likely to request a consult.
Determining the cause of an abnormal coagulation study result should carry equal weight as looking for the site of bleeding and could be facilitated by consultation with a hematologist. Insight from this survey highlights knowledge and practice gaps that could be the target of focused educational initiatives.
PMCID: PMC3496520  PMID: 23152686
acquired hemophilia; hemorrhage; aPTT; partial thromboplastin time; coagulation disorders
12.  Differential prescribing of opioid analgesics according to physician specialty for Medicaid patients with chronic noncancer pain diagnoses 
Opioid analgesics have the potential to considerably increase the quality of life of individuals experiencing chronic pain; however, they are also associated with the potential for significant side effects. Physicians’ opioid-prescribing practices may be influenced by various factors; however, to date, there is little research investigating the effect of practitioner specialty on opioid prescriptions. Accordingly, the authors of this study assessed this aspect of opioid prescribing using a database of Medicaid claims in North Carolina, USA, over a one-year period.
Despite >20 years of studies investigating the characteristics of patients seeking or receiving opioid analgesics, research characterizing factors associated with physicians’ opioid prescribing practices has been inconclusive, and the role of practitioner specialty in opioid prescribing practices remains largely unknown.
To examine the relationships between physicians’ and other providers’ primary specialties and their opioid prescribing practices among patients with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP).
Prescriptions for opioids filled by 81,459 Medicaid patients with CNCP in North Carolina (USA), 18 to 64 years of age, enrolled at any point during a one-year study period were examined. χ2 statistics were used to examine bivariate differences in prescribing practices according to specialty. For multivariable analyses, maximum-likelihood logistic regression models were used to examine the effect of specialty on prescribing practices, controlling for patients’ pain diagnoses and demographic characteristics.
Of prescriptions filled by patients with CNCP, who constituted 6.4% of the total sample of 1.28 million individuals, 12.0% were for opioids. General practitioner/family medicine specialists and internists were least likely to prescribe opioids, and orthopedists were most likely. Across specialties, men were more likely to receive opioids than women, as were white individuals relative to other races/ethnicities. In multivariate analyses, all specialties except internal medicine had higher odds of prescribing an opioid than general practitioners: orthopedists, OR 7.1 (95% CI 6.7 to 7.5); dentists, OR 3.5 (95% CI 3.3 to 3.6); and emergency medicine physicians, OR 2.7 (95% CI 2.6 to 2.8).
Significant differences in opioid prescribing practices across prescriber specialties may be reflective of differing norms concerning the appropriateness of opioids for the control of chronic pain. If so, sharing these norms across specialties may improve the care of patients with CNCP.
PMCID: PMC4158932  PMID: 24809067
Chronic noncancer pain; Medicaid; Medical specialties; Opioids; Prescribing patterns
13.  Relation of Physician Specialty and HIV/AIDS Experience to Choice of Guideline-Recommended Antiretroviral Therapy 
Controversy exists regarding who should provide care for those with HIV/AIDS. While previous studies have found an association between physician HIV experience and patient outcomes, less is known about the relationship of physician specialty to HIV/AIDS outcomes or quality of care.
To examine the relationship between choice of appropriate antiretroviral therapy (ART) to physician specialty and HIV/AIDS experience.
Self-administered physician survey.
Random sample of 2,478 internal medicine (IM) and infectious disease (ID) physicians.
Choice of guideline-recommended ART.
Two patients with HIV disease, differing only by CD4+ count and HIV RNA load, were presented. Respondents were asked whether ART was indicated, and if so, what ART regimen they would choose. Respondents' ART choices were categorized as “recommended” or not by Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. Respondents' HIV/AIDS experience was categorized as moderate to high (MOD/HI) or none to low (NO/LO). For Case 1, 72.9% of responding physicians chose recommended ART. Recommended ART was more likely (P < .01) to be chosen by ID physicians (88.2%) than by IM physicians (57.1%). Physicians with MOD/HI experience were also more likely (P < .01) to choose recommended ART than those with NO/LO experience. Finally, choice of ART was examined using logistic regression: specialty and HIV experience were found to be independent predictors of choosing recommended ART (for ID physicians, odds ratio [OR], 4.66; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3.15 to 6.90; and for MOD/HI experience, OR, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.33 to 3.16). Results for Case 2 were similar. When the analysis was repeated excluding physicians who indicated they would refer the HIV “patient,” specialty and HIV experience were not significant predictors of choosing recommended ART.
Guideline-recommended ART appears to be less likely to be chosen by generalists and physicians with less HIV/AIDS experience, although many of these physicians report they would refer these patients in clinical practice. These results lend support to current recommendations for routine expert consultant input in the management of those with HIV/AIDS.
PMCID: PMC1495224  PMID: 11422632
HIV/AIDS; physician specialty; antiretroviral therapy
14.  Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study 
Patients with back pain radiating to the leg(s) report worse symptoms and poorer recovery than those with back pain alone. Robust evidence regarding their epidemiological profile is lacking from primary care, the setting where most of these patients will present and be managed. Our objective was to describe the characteristics of patients with back and leg pain, including sciatica, seeking treatment in primary care.
Adults visiting their general practitioner with back and leg pain, of any duration and severity, were invited to participate. Participants completed questionnaires, underwent clinical assessments and received MRI scans. Characteristics of the sample are described, and differences between patients diagnosed with referred leg pain and those with sciatica are analysed.
Six hundred nine patients participated; 62.6 % were female, mean (SD) age 50.2 (13.9). 67.5 % reported pain below the knee, 60.7 % were in paid employment with 39.7 % reporting time off work. Mean disability (RMDQ) was 12.7 (5.7) and mean pain intensity was 5.6 (2.2) and 5.2 (2.4) for back and leg respectively. Mean sciatica bothersomeness index (SBI) was 14.9 (5.1). Three quarters (74.2 %) were clinically diagnosed as having sciatica. In the sciatica group, leg pain intensity, neuropathic pain, pain below the knee, leg pain worse than back pain, SBI and positive MRI findings were significantly higher as compared to patients with referred leg pain.
This primary care cohort reported high levels of disability and pain. This is the first epidemiological study of unselected primary care patients seeking healthcare for back and leg pain. Follow-up of this cohort will investigate the prognostic value of their baseline characteristics. This new information will contribute to our understanding of the characteristics and clinical features of this population, and will underpin future research aimed at defining prognostic subgroups to enable better targeting of health care provision.
PMCID: PMC4634730  PMID: 26537894
Epidemiology; Back pain; Leg pain; Sciatica; Cross-sectional
15.  The Relation Between Expectations and Outcomes in Surgery for Sciatica 
To describe the expectations that patients and their physicians have for outcomes after surgical treatment for sciatica and to examine the associations between expectations and outcomes.
Prospective cohort study.
We recruited 273 patients, from the offices of orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and occupational medicine physicians in Maine, who had diskectomy for sciatica.
Patients' and physicians' expectations were measured before surgery. Satisfaction with care and changes in symptoms and functional status were measured 12 months after surgery. More patients who expected a shorter recovery time after surgery were “delighted,”“pleased,” or “mostly satisfied” with their outcomes 12 months after surgery than patients who expected a longer recovery time (odds ratio [OR] 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 4.4). Also, more patients who preferred surgery after learning that sciatica could get better without surgery had good symptom scores 12 months after surgery than patients who did not prefer surgery (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2, 7.0). When physicians predicted a “great deal of improvement” after surgery, 39% of patients were not satisfied with their outcomes and 25% said their symptoms had not improved.
More patients with favorable expectations about surgery had good outcomes than patients with unfavorable expectations. Physicians' expectations were overly optimistic. Patient expectations appear to be important predictors of outcomes, and eliciting them may help physicians identify patients more likely to benefit from diskectomy for sciatica.
PMCID: PMC1496858  PMID: 10632818
patient expectations; physician expectations; sciatica; diskectomy
16.  Outcome of invasive treatment modalities on back pain and sciatica: an evidence-based review 
European Spine Journal  2005;15(Suppl 1):S82-S92.
Within the framework of evidence-based medicine high-quality randomised trials and systematic reviews are considered a necessary prerequisite for progress in orthopaedics. This paper summarises the currently available evidence on surgical and other invasive procedures for low back pain. Results of systematic reviews conducted within the framework of the Cochrane Back Review Group were used. Data were gathered from the latest Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 2. The Cochrane reviews were updated using the evidence summary on surgery and other invasive procedures from the COST B13 European Guidelines for the Management of Acute and Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain. Facet joint, epidural, trigger point and sclerosant injections have not clearly been shown to be effective and can consequently not be recommended. There is no scientific evidence on the effectiveness of spinal stenosis surgery. Surgical discectomy may be considered for selected patients with sciatica due to lumbar disc prolapses that fail to resolve with the conservative management. Cognitive intervention Combined with exercises is recommended for chronic low back pain, and fusion surgery may be considered only in carefully selected patients after active rehabilitation programmes during 2 years time have failed. Demanding surgical fusion techniques are not better than the traditional posterolateral fusion without internal fixation.
PMCID: PMC3454546  PMID: 16320030
Back pain; Sciatica; Invasive treatment; Surgery; Evidence review
17.  Comparative health status of patients with 11 common illnesses in Wales. 
OBJECTIVE--To assess the health status of patients with 11 common illnesses--asthma, diabetes, arthritis, back pain, sciatica, hypertension, angina, anxiety, depression, and heart attack and stroke. DESIGN--Face to face interview using a structured questionnaire which contained the Short Form 36 questionnaire (SF-36) and questions on lifestyle, health service utilisation, and self reported conditions treated by physicians. SETTING--Patients' homes, in West Glamorgan, Wales. SUBJECTS--Twelve hundred adults, aged 20-89 years, were randomly selected from the register of the family health services authority. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--The eight scales within the SF-36 health profile. RESULTS--The response rate was 82%. Each illness had a distinctive profile; patients with anxiety or depression reported the worst health experience in role limitations because of emotional problems and mental health, while patients with back pain, arthritis, or sciatica registered the three highest negative scores in bodily pain and role limitations due to physical problems. For all disease groups, the general health perceptions of those with the disease was significantly worse than those without it (p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS--The SF-36 allows comparison of the health status of patients suffering from different conditions. Data such as these can be used to inform better purchasing decisions on how resources might be more effectively deployed and as a bench mark to monitor the effects of multiple health care interventions by conducting serial surveys.
PMCID: PMC1059989  PMID: 7964339
18.  Variations among Primary Care Physicians in Exercise Advice, Imaging, and Analgesics for Musculoskeletal Pain: Results from a Factorial Experiment 
Arthritis care & research  2014;66(1):147-156.
To examine whether medical decisions regarding evaluation and management of musculoskeletal pain conditions varied systematically by characteristics of the patient or provider.
We conducted a balanced factorial experiment among primary care physicians in the U.S. Physicians (N=192) viewed two videos of different patients (actors) presenting with pain: (1) undiagnosed sciatica symptoms or (2) diagnosed knee osteoarthritis. Systematic variations in patient gender, socioeconomic status (SES), race, physician gender and experience (<20 vs. ≥20 years in practice) permitted estimation of unconfounded effects. Analysis of variance was used to evaluate associations between patient or provider attributes and clinical decisions. Quality of decisions was defined based on the current recommendations of the ACR, American Pain Society, and clinical expert consensus.
Despite current recommendations, under one-third of physicians would provide exercise advice (30.2% for osteoarthritis, 32.8% for sciatica). Physicians with fewer years in practice were more likely to provide advice on lifestyle changes, particularly exercise (P<0.01), and to prescribe NSAIDs for pain relief, both of which were appropriate and consistent with current recommendations for care. Newer physicians ordered fewer tests, particularly basic laboratory investigations or urinalysis. Test ordering decreased as organizational emphasis on business or profits increased. Patient factors and physician gender had no consistent effects on pain evaluation or treatment.
Physician education on disease management recommendations regarding exercise and analgesics, and implementation of quality measures may be useful, particularly for physicians with more years in practice.
PMCID: PMC4067704  PMID: 24376249
19.  Significant differences among physician specialties in management recommendations of BRCA1 mutation carriers 
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has published guidelines for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOCS) management. Little data exist on compliance with these guidelines among different physician specialties. We performed an on-line case-based survey by randomly sampling physicians from five specialties, Family Medicine (FM), Obstetrics and Gynecology (OG), General Surgery (GS), Internal Medicine (IM), and Hematology and Oncology (HO). The physicians (n = 225) were asked to provide HBOCS management of healthy women ages 40–42 in the presence of a familial BRCA1 mutation. For women negative for the BRCA1 mutation, 59% of the physicians recommended appropriate surveillance although with significant differences among specialties; P = 0.01. Using an aggregate screening intensity score, physicians clearly recommended more intense screening for mutation positive than negative women (P < 0.0001), but only 16% of physicians followed NCCN guidelines for BRCA1-positive women. Seventy-six percent of all physicians recommended breast MRI with significant variation among specialties ranging from 62% of FM to 89% of OG (P = 0.0020). Similarly, 63% of physicians recommended prophylactic oophorectomy, with 76 and 78% of GS and OG compared to 38% of IM (P < 0.0001) and 57% recommended prophylactic mastectomy ranging from 84% of HO to 32% of FM (P < 0.0001). Independent of specialty, respondents with BRCA testing experience recommended more intense management than those without; P = 0.021. Management recommendations of BRCA1 mutation carriers are not consistent with NCCN guidelines and vary by medical specialty and genetic testing experience. Targeted education of physicians by specialty is needed, so that optimal management is offered to these high-risk women.
PMCID: PMC3155891  PMID: 21465171
BRCA1; BRCA; Surveillance; Guidelines; Physicians
20.  Clinical testing patterns and cost implications of variation in the evaluation of chronic kidney disease among U.S. physicians 
Clinical practice guidelines were established to improve the diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease (CKD), but the extent, determinants, and cost implications of guideline adherence and variation in adherence have not been evaluated.
Study Design
Cross-sectional survey
Settings & Participants
Nationally representative sample of 301 U.S. primary care physicians and nephrologists
Provider and patient characteristics
Outcomes & Measurements
Guideline adherence was assessed as present if physicians recommended at least 5 of 6 clinical tests prescribed by the National Kidney Foundation-Kidney Disease Outcomes and Quality Initiative (KDOQI) guidelines for a hypothetical patient with newly identified CKD. We also assessed patterns and cost of additional non-recommended tests for the initial clinical evaluation of CKD.
Most of the 86 family medicine, 89 internal medicine, and 126 nephrology physicians practiced greater than 10 years (54%), were in non-academic practices (76%), spent greater than 80% of their time performing clinical duties (78%), and correctly estimated kidney function (73%). Overall, 35% of participants were guideline adherent. Compared to nephrologists, internal medicine and family physicians had lower odds of adherence for all recommended testing (Odds Ratio (OR) [95% CI]:0.6[0.3–1.1] and 0.3[0.1–0.6], respectively). Participants practicing greater than 10 years had lower odds of ordering all recommended testing compared to participants practicing less than 10 years (OR[95% CI]: 0.5[0.3–0.9]). Eighty-five percent of participants recommended additional tests, which resulted in a 23% increased total per patient cost of the clinical evaluation.
Recommendations for a hypothetical case scenario may differ from that of actual patients.
Adherence to the recommended clinical testing for the diagnosis and management of CKD was poor and additional testing was associated with substantially increased cost of the clinical evaluation. Improved clarity, dissemination, and uptake of existing guidelines are needed to improve quality and decrease costs of care for patients with CKD.
PMCID: PMC2714476  PMID: 19371991
chronic kidney disease; primary care providers; guidelines; KDOQI; cost
21.  Physician career satisfaction within specialties 
Specialty-specific data on career satisfaction may be useful for understanding physician workforce trends and for counseling medical students about career options.
We analyzed cross-sectional data from 6,590 physicians (response rate, 53%) in Round 4 (2004-2005) of the Community Tracking Study Physician Survey. The dependent variable ranged from +1 to -1 and measured satisfaction and dissatisfaction with career. Forty-two specialties were analyzed with survey-adjusted linear regressions
After adjusting for physician, practice, and community characteristics, the following specialties had significantly higher satisfaction levels than family medicine: pediatric emergency medicine (regression coefficient = 0.349); geriatric medicine (0.323); other pediatric subspecialties (0.270); neonatal/prenatal medicine (0.266); internal medicine and pediatrics (combined practice) (0.250); pediatrics (0.250); dermatology (0.249);and child and adolescent psychiatry (0.203). The following specialties had significantly lower satisfaction levels than family medicine: neurological surgery (-0.707); pulmonary critical care medicine (-0.273); nephrology (-0.206); and obstetrics and gynecology (-0.188). We also found satisfaction was significantly and positively related to income and employment in a medical school but negatively associated with more than 50 work-hours per-week, being a full-owner of the practice, greater reliance on managed care revenue, and uncontrollable lifestyle. We observed no statistically significant gender differences and no differences between African-Americans and whites.
Career satisfaction varied across specialties. A number of stakeholders will likely be interested in these findings including physicians in specialties that rank high and low and students contemplating specialty. Our findings regarding "less satisfied" specialties should elicit concern from residency directors and policy makers since they appear to be in critical areas of medicine.
PMCID: PMC2754441  PMID: 19758454
22.  The effect of age on result of straight leg raising test in patients suffering lumbar disc herniation and sciatica 
Ninety percent of all people sometimes during their lives experience low back pain, and 30-40% develops radicular leg pain with the sciatica characteristics. Although for clinical diagnosis of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) straight leg raising (SLR) test in 85-90% of cases indicates LDH, but in our practice with LDH patients this test is frequently negative despite radicular leg pain due to LDH. Hence, we decided to evaluate this test in LDH in different age groups.
Materials and Methods:
All patients with leg pain referring to neurosurgery clinic were enrolled. Those with a history of pain other than sciatica excluded and SLR test and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the lumbosacral spine performed. The patients with negative MRI findings excluded and finally 269 patients with true sciatica and positive MRI were included. SLR tests were performed for different age groups.
Of 269 patients, 167 were male. The age range was 16-80 years. The most involved levels were L5-S1 (47%) and L4-L5 (42%), respectively. The rate of positive SLR result, which was 100%, 87% and 82% for 10-19, 20-29 and 30-39 years age group respectively. With an increment of age, the rate of positive test regularly declined. The chance of positive SLR in men is 1.3 times the women (odds ratio [OR] 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.265-4.557; P = 0.007). Increasing the age has suppression effect in positivity of SLR so that for each 1-year the chance of SLR become 0.27 times less to become positive and this is also statically meaningful (OR = 0.271;95% CI = 0.188-0.391; P,0.001). The chance of positive SLR for patients under 60 is 5.4 folds more than patients above 60 years old (OR = 5.4; 95% CI = 4-8.3; P, 0.001).
Age, sex (male), and disk level had statistically the effect on SLR positive test.
PMCID: PMC4400709  PMID: 25983767
Low back pain; lumbar disc herniation; sciatica; straight leg raising test
23.  Management of low back pain in general practice – is it of acceptable quality: an observational study among 25 general practices in South Tyrol (Italy) 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:148.
There are several guidelines dealing with the management of low back pain (LBP), but only few studies on the quality of care provided within General Practices as judged against those guidelines.
The objective of this study is to analyse the management of LBP in Italian General Practice and compare it with guideline recommendations.
In this observational study, all patients visiting their General Practitioners (GPs) for treatment of LBP within a 8-week period were monitored for at least four weeks with regard to symptoms and diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Management of LBP was judged by pre-defined quality indicators based on guideline recommendations.
Twenty-five of 114 eligible GPs participated in the study, representing a total of 43,012 registered patients. Of the 475 patients complaining of LBP and monitored for four weeks, 55.8% were diagnosed as having acute lumbar pain, 13.5% chronic lumbar pain, 17.1% acute sciatica, and 12.6% chronic sciatica; 76.0% underwent no technical investigations, 21.7% underwent x-rays, 5.5% MRI and 4% CT scans; 20.4% were referred to secondary care; 93.3% of all patients received some medication. In those receiving a medication, in 88.3% it was an NSAID, in 6.3% Paracetamol, in 10.4% Paracetamol combined with Codeine, and in 9% a muscle relaxants. When physiotherapy was prescribed (17,1%), it was mostly massage. Hardly more than 50% of GPs (partially) followed locally established guidelines, while the remainder seemed not to follow guidelines at all.
Our study reveals gross deviations of GP management of LBP from current guidelines and points to two different types of deviators: those who partially follow guidelines, and those who do not follow them at all. Further research should evaluate whether these two types of deviation are best addressed by different foci of education, i.e. on knowledge versus attitudes, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3850994  PMID: 24090155
Low back pain; General practice; Guideline adherence; Diagnostic imaging
24.  A preliminary clinical evaluation of external snehan and asanas in the patients of sciatica 
International Journal of Yoga  2013;6(1):71-75.
Lower back pain radiating to either on one leg or both legs along the course of sciatic nerve is a common ailment in the clinical practice, this type of peculiar symptomatology is termed as "Sciatica" in modern medicine. The medical treatment is unsatisfactory for both the patient and the neurosurgeons, as the surgical treatment has its own hazards and the cost of the surgical procedure and medical treatment is prohibitory to most of the Indian patients. Hence, most of the patients present themselves to the practitioners of Indian medicines like Ayurveda and yoga. This study was designed to evaluate the preliminary clinical effects of Bahya Snehan and Asanas in the patients of sciatica. This was a prospective randomized active control trial. A total of 60 participants showing classical symptoms of Sciatica between 18 and 65 years of age were randomly assigned to receive Ayurvedic or Yogic measure. One group received Snehan (external) with Bhujang and Shalabh Asana while another group received Bhujang and Salabh Asana only. Both groups practiced supervised intervention for 4 weeks. The signs and symptoms like Katishool (pain), tenderness, Stambha (rigidity), difficulty in walking, pain on bending forward were graded and interpreted at the end of the trail Significant improvement was observed in both groups before and after external Snehan with Bhujang and Shalabh Asana and in another group Bhujang and Salabh Asana only. Conclusions: Both groups, one with Snehan with asanas and the second with asanas only showed significant improvement in the patients of sciatica (Gridhrasi).
PMCID: PMC3573547  PMID: 23439799
Asanas; gridhrasi; janu; kati; pada; prushtha; sciatics; sphika; stambha
25.  Minimally invasive surgical procedures for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation 
In up to 30% of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery for herniated or protruded discs outcomes are judged unfavourable. Over the last decades this problem has stimulated the development of a number of minimally-invasive operative procedures. The aim is to relieve pressure from compromised nerve roots by mechanically removing, dissolving or evaporating disc material while leaving bony structures and surrounding tissues as intact as possible. In Germany, there is hardly any utilisation data for these new procedures – data files from the statutory health insurances demonstrate that about 5% of all lumbar disc surgeries are performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Their real proportion is thought to be much higher because many procedures are offered by private hospitals and surgeries and are paid by private health insurers or patients themselves. So far no comprehensive assessment comparing efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery to standard procedures (microdiscectomy, open discectomy) which could serve as a basis for coverage decisions, has been published in Germany.
Against this background the aim of the following assessment is:
Based on published scientific literature assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery compared to standard procedures. To identify and critically appraise studies comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures to that of standard procedures. If necessary identify research and evaluation needs and point out regulative needs within the German health care system. The assessment focusses on procedures that are used in elective lumbar disc surgery as alternative treatment options to microdiscectomy or open discectomy. Chemonucleolysis, percutaneous manual discectomy, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laserdiscectomy and endoscopic procedures accessing the disc by a posterolateral or posterior approach are included.
In order to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures as well as their economic implications systematic reviews of the literature are performed. A comprehensive search strategy is composed to search 23 electronic databases, among them MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Methodological quality of systematic reviews, HTA reports and primary research is assessed using checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Health Technology Assessment. Quality and transparency of cost analyses are documented using the quality and transparency catalogues of the working group. Study results are summarised in a qualitative manner. Due to the limited number and the low methodological quality of the studies it is not possible to conduct metaanalyses. In addition to the results of controlled trials results of recent case series are introduced and discussed.
The evidence-base to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery procedures is rather limited:
Percutaneous manual discectomy: Six case series (four after 1998)Automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy: Two RCT (one discontinued), twelve case series (one after 1998)Chemonucleolysis: Five RCT, five non-randomised controlled trials, eleven case seriesPercutaneous laserdiscectomy: One non-randomised controlled trial, 13 case series (eight after 1998)Endoscopic procedures: Three RCT, 21 case series (17 after 1998)
There are two economic analyses each retrieved for chemonucleolysis and automated percutaneous discectomy as well as one cost-minimisation analysis comparing costs of an endoscopic procedure to costs for open discectomy.
Among all minimally-invasive procedures chemonucleolysis is the only of which efficacy may be judged on the basis of results from high quality randomised controlled trials (RCT). Study results suggest that the procedure maybe (cost)effectively used as an intermediate therapeutical option between conservative and operative management of small lumbar disc herniations or protrusions causing sciatica. Two RCT comparing transforaminal endoscopic procedures with microdiscectomy in patients with sciatica and small non-sequestered disc herniations show comparable short and medium term overall success rates. Concerning speed of recovery and return to work a trend towards more favourable results for the endoscopic procedures is noted. It is doubtful though, whether these results from the eleven and five years old studies are still valid for the more advanced procedures used today. The only RCT comparing the results of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy to those of microdiscectomy showed clearly superior results of microdiscectomy. Furthermore, success rates of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy reported in the RCT (29%) differ extremely from success rates reported in case series (between 56% and 92%).
The literature search retrieves no controlled trials to assess efficacy and/or effectiveness of laser-discectomy, percutaneous manual discectomy or endoscopic procedures using a posterior approach in comparison to the standard procedures. Results from recent case series permit no assessment of efficacy, especially not in comparison to standard procedures. Due to highly selected patients, modi-fications of operative procedures, highly specialised surgical units and poorly standardised outcome assessment results of case series are highly variable, their generalisability is low.
The results of the five economical analyses are, due to conceptual and methodological problems, of no value for decision-making in the context of the German health care system.
Aside from low methodological study quality three conceptual problems complicate the interpretation of results.
Continuous further development of technologies leads to a diversity of procedures in use which prohibits generalisation of study results. However, diversity is noted not only for minimally-invasive procedures but also for the standard techniques against which the new developments are to be compared. The second problem refers to the heterogeneity of study populations. For most studies one common inclusion criterion was "persisting sciatica after a course of conservative treatment of variable duration". Differences among study populations are noted concerning results of imaging studies. Even within every group of minimally-invasive procedure, studies define their own in- and exclusion criteria which differ concerning degree of dislocation and sequestration of disc material. There is the non-standardised assessment of outcomes which are performed postoperatively after variable periods of time. Most studies report results in a dichotomous way as success or failure while the classification of a result is performed using a variety of different assessment instruments or procedures. Very often the global subjective judgement of results by patients or surgeons is reported. There are no scientific discussions whether these judgements are generalisable or comparable, especially among studies that are conducted under differing socio-cultural conditions. Taking into account the weak evidence-base for efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures it is not surprising that so far there are no dependable economic analyses.
Conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the present assessment refer in detail to the specified minimally-invasive procedures of lumbar disc surgery but they may also be considered exemplary for other fields where optimisation of results is attempted by technological development and widening of indications (e.g. total hip replacement).
Compared to standard technologies (open discectomy, microdiscectomy) and with the exception of chemonucleolysis, the developmental status of all other minimally-invasive procedures assessed must be termed experimental. To date there is no dependable evidence-base to recommend their use in routine clinical practice. To create such a dependable evidence-base further research in two directions is needed: a) The studies need to include adequate patient populations, use realistic controls (e.g. standard operative procedures or continued conservative care) and use standardised measurements of meaningful outcomes after adequate periods of time. b) Studies that are able to report effectiveness of the procedures under everyday practice conditions and furthermore have the potential to detect rare adverse effects are needed. In Sweden this type of data is yielded by national quality registries. On the one hand their data are used for quality improvement measures and on the other hand they allow comprehensive scientific evaluations. Since the year of 2000 a continuous rise in utilisation of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery is observed among statutory health insurers. Examples from other areas of innovative surgical technologies (e.g. robot assisted total hip replacement) indicate that the rise will probably continue - especially because there are no legal barriers to hinder introduction of innovative treatments into routine hospital care. Upon request by payers or providers the "Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss" may assess a treatments benefit, its necessity and cost-effectiveness as a prerequisite for coverage by the statutory health insurance. In the case of minimally-invasive disc surgery it would be advisable to examine the legal framework for covering procedures only if they are provided under evaluation conditions. While in Germany coverage under evaluation conditions is established practice in ambulatory health care only (“Modellvorhaben") examples from other European countries (Great Britain, Switzerland) demonstrate that it is also feasible for hospital based interventions. In order to assure patient protection and at the same time not hinder the further development of new and promising technologies provision under evaluation conditions could also be realised in the private health care market - although in this sector coverage is not by law linked to benefit, necessity and cost-effectiveness of an intervention.
PMCID: PMC3011322  PMID: 21289928

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