Conversion disorder (‘hysteria’) was largely considered to be a neurological problem in the 19th century, but without a neuropathological explanation it was commonly assimilated with malingering. The theories of Janet and Freud transformed hysteria into a psychiatric condition, but as such models decline in popularity and a neurobiology of conversion has yet to be found, today's neurologists once again face a disorder without an accepted model. This article explores how today's neurologists understand conversion through in-depth interviews with 22 neurology consultants. The neurologists endorsed psychological models but did not understand their patients in such terms. Rather, they distinguished conversion from other unexplained conditions clinically by its severity and inconsistency. While many did not see this as clearly distinct from feigning, they did not feel that this was their problem to resolve. They saw themselves as ‘agnostic’ regarding non-neuropathological explanations. However, since neurologists are in some ways more expert in conversion than psychiatrists, their continuing support for the deception model is important, and begs an explanation. One reason for the model's persistence may be that it is employed as a diagnostic device, used to differentiate between those unexplained symptoms that could, in principle, have a medical explanation and those that could not.
conversion disorder; hysteria; malingering; deception; factitious disorder
Neurologists face a dilemma when communicating with their conversion disorder patients – whether to be frank, and risk losing the patient's trust, or to disclose less, in the hope of building a therapeutic relationship. This study reports how neurologists in the UK described dealing with this dilemma in their practice.
Practicing consultant neurologists from an NHS region were recruited by snowball sampling. Twenty-two of 35 consultants in the region were interviewed in depth, and the interviews qualitatively analysed.
The neurologists were reluctant to disclose conversion disorder as a differential diagnosis until they were certain. They were guided by the receptivity of their patients as to how psychological to make their eventual explanations, but they did not discuss their suspicions about feigning. They described their communications as much easier now than they had seen in training.
Neurologists adapt their disclosure to their patients, which facilitates communication, but imposes some limits on truth-telling. In particular, it may sometimes result in a changed diagnosis.
An optimum strategy for communicating diagnoses will need to balance ethical considerations with demonstrated therapeutic benefit.
Conversion disorder; Factitious disorder; Malingering; Hysteria; Truth-telling; Deception; Neurology
The term ‘functional’ has a distinguished history, embodying a number of physiological concepts, but has increasingly come to mean ‘hysterical’. The DSM-V working group proposes to use ‘functional’ as the official diagnostic term for medically unexplained neurological symptoms (currently known as ‘conversion disorder’). This study aimed to explore the current neurological meanings of the term and to understand its resilience.
Mixed methods were used, first interviewing the neurologists in a large UK region and then surveying all neurologists in the UK on their use of the term.
The interviews revealed four dominant uses—‘not organic’, a physical disability, a brain disorder and a psychiatric problem—as well as considerable ambiguity. Although there was much dissatisfaction with the term, the ambiguity was also seen as useful when engaging with patients. The survey confirmed these findings, with a majority adhering to a strict interpretation of ‘functional’ to mean only ‘not organic’, but a minority employing it to mean different things in different contexts - and endorsing the view that ‘functional’ would one day be a neurological construct again.
‘Functional’ embodies real divisions in neurologists' conceptualisation of unexplained symptoms and, perhaps, between those of patients and neurologists: its diversity of meanings allows it to be a common term while meaning different things to different people, or at different times, and thus conceal some of the conflict in a particularly contentious area. This flexibility may help explain the term's longevity.
Neurologists are central to providing quality care for individuals with MS. However, neurologist shortages may restrict access to care for MS patients. To examine factors influencing neurologists' provision of MS care, we surveyed 1,700 US neurologists to assess demographic/practice characteristics, training, and attitudes toward MS care. The study population consisted of 573 respondents: 87 (15.2%) MS subspecialists and 486 (84.8%) “other neurologists,” including subspecialists in other neurology areas (i.e., non-MS) and general neurologists. MS subspecialists indicating they “enjoy interacting with MS patients” had a significantly greater rate of MS patients seen per week. In separate analyses of the “other neurologists” group, the rate of MS patients seen was lower among neurologists in university-based groups or those practicing in major cities; female neurologists; and neurologists who indicated lack of sufficient knowledge regarding MS patient care. Rates of MS patients seen were significantly greater for other neurologists who agreed that MS care involved “ability to improve patient outcomes and quality of life”; “dynamic area with evolving treatment options”; and “enjoy interacting with MS patients.” Understanding factors influencing MS patient care by neurologists and developing policies for appropriate access to care is critical for optimal outcomes among this population.
Prognostication of patients who remain comatose following successful resuscitation after cardiac arrest has long posed a challenge for the consulting neurologist. With increasing rates of early defibrillation, out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and expanding use of therapeutic hypothermia, prognostication in hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy has become an increasingly common consult for neurologists. Much of the data we previously relied upon for prognostication were taken from patients who were not treated with therapeutic hypothermia. In this review, we examine useful prognostic tools and markers, including the physical examination, evaluation of myoclonus, electroencephalogram monitoring, somatosensory-evoked potentials, biochemical markers of neuronal injury, and neuroimaging. Neurologists must avoid overly pessimistic prognostic statements regarding survival, awakening from coma, or future quality of life, as such statements may unduly influence decisions regarding the continuation of life-sustaining treatment. Conversely, continuation of aggressive medical management in a patient without any hope of awakening should also be avoided. Thus, an understanding of the utility and the limitations of these prognostic tools in the era of therapeutic hypothermia is essential.
hypoxia–ischemia; brain; cerebrovascular disorders; evoked potentials; techniques; neurohospitalist; clinical specialty; neurocritical care; clinical specialty; electroencephalography; techniques
Monetary incentives are an effective way of increasing response rates to surveys, though they are generally less effective in physicians, and are more effective when the incentive is paid up-front rather than when made conditional on completion.
In this study we examine the effectiveness of pre- and post-completion incentives on the response rates of all the neurologists in the UK to a survey about conversion disorder, using a cluster randomised controlled design. A postal survey was sent to all practicing consultant neurologists, in two rounds, including either a book token, the promise of a book token, or nothing at all.
Three hundred and fifty-one of 591 eligible neurologists completed the survey, for a response rate of 59%. While the post-completion incentive exerted no discernible influence on response rates, a pre-completion incentive did, with an odds-ratio of 2.1 (95% confidence interval 1.5 - 3.0).
We conclude that neurologists, in the UK at least, may be influenced to respond to a postal survey by a pre-payment incentive but are unaffected by a promised reward.
Although small treatment trials have examined the efficacy of front-line medications in tremor reduction in essential tremor (ET), an overall survey of pharmacological management has not been undertaken in a large sample of ET cases.
To conduct a survey of medication usage among several hundred ET patients.
A computerized database at the Neurological Institute of New York was used to identify 223 ET patients cared for by movement disorder neurologists and 37 cared for by general neurologists. Each had been seen one or more times within past five years. Lifetime treatment data were abstracted from clinical records.
One-hundred-sixty-three (73.1%) of 223 patients cared for by movement disorder neurologists had taken medication for ET during their lifetime; 53/163 (32.5%) had taken ≥4 medications; 31/163 (19.0%) had taken ≥5 medications; and 3 (1.8%), ≥10 medications. Nearly three-quarters (158/223 [70.9%]) had taken primidone or propranolol, yet 89/158 (56.3%) had discontinued both. Among 11 patients who had undergone ET surgery, the mean number of ET medications tried was 6.0±2.8 (range = 3–12). Medication usage by general neurologists was less than by movement disorder specialists (p<0.001). One-third of general neurologists’ patients (14/37 [37.8%]) had taken primidone or propranolol at some point and 6/14 (42.9%) had discontinued both.
In this large survey, a substantial proportion of ET patients failed treatment with both front-line medications. Among patients seeing movement disorder specialists, the number of medications they had had to try was sizable. These data demonstrate the limitations of current pharmacological options for ET.
Essential tremor; clinical; epidemiology; treatment; medication
The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in inpatients with neurological disorders and the extent to which it is detected by neurologists were measured by using a two stage model of psychiatric assessment and from information recorded in the patients' medical notes. The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity was estimated as 39%, of which 72% was unrecognised by the neurologists. Only a minority of patients with an uncertain physical diagnosis had a psychiatric illness, showing the error in assuming that a patient's physical symptoms arise from a psychological disturbance if an organic aetiology cannot be determined. When the patients were interviewed on their discharge from hospital they were divided on whether they had wished to discuss their mood with neurologists while they were in hospital. The reasons that they gave suggested that interactions between patients and doctors and the lack of ward facilities for private consultations with doctors are important determinants of hidden psychiatric morbidity in medical inpatients.
Clinical neurologists in the health care system of the future should have a multifaceted role. Advances in the basic understanding of the nervous system and therapeutics of neurologic disease have created, for the first time in human history, an ethical imperative to correctly diagnose neurologic disease. In many situations, the neurologists may function as a consultant and principal physician for patients with primary nervous system disorders including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, migraine, cerebrovascular disease, movement disorders, and neuromuscular disease. Other important roles for neurologists include the training of future physicians, both neurologists and primary care physicians, the application of cost-effective approaches to care, and the support of health care delivery research and academic programs that link basic research efforts to the development of new therapy. To be successful, future residency training programs should include joint certification opportunities in both neurology and general medicine, and training programs for clinical investigators should be expanded. Despite its threats to specialists, managed care should also provide opportunities for new alliances among neurologists, other specialists, and primary care physicians that will both improve patient care and increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Our aim was to assess the diagnostic agreement among the neurologists in the Neurological Disorders in Central Spain 2 (NEDICES-2) study; these neurologists were assigning diagnoses of essential tremor (ET) vs. no ET.
Clinical histories and standardized video-taped neurological examinations of 26 individuals (11 ET, seven Parkinson’s disease, three diagnostically unclear, four normal, one with a tremor disorder other than ET) were provided to seven consultant neurologists, six neurology residents, and five neurology research fellows (18 neurologists total). For each of the 26 individuals, neurologists were asked to assign a diagnosis of “ET” or “no ET” using diagnostic criteria proposed by the Movement Disorders Society (MDS). Inter-rater agreement was assessed both with percent concordance and non-weighted κ statistics.
Overall κ was 0.61 (substantial agreement), with no differences between consultant neurologists (κ = 0.60), neurology residents (κ = 0.61), and neurology research fellows (κ = 0.66) in subgroup analyses. Subanalyses of agreement only among those 15 subjects with a previous diagnosis of ET (11 patients) and those with a previous diagnosis of being normal (four individuals) showed an overall κ of 0.51 (moderate agreement).
In a population-based epidemiological study, substantial agreement was demonstrated for the diagnosis of ET among neurologists of different levels of expertise. However, agreement was lower than that previously reported using the Washington Heights–Inwood Genetic Study of Essential Tremor criteria, and a head-to-head comparison is needed to assess which is the tool of choice in epidemiological research in ET.
Tremor, essential tremor; clinical diagnosis; inter-rater agreement; reliability
New more powerful therapies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis may also confer a potential for unprecedented life-endangering side effects. How does a physician respond to a patient’s request for a treatment the benefit of which cannot be clearly established as worth its risk? The current challenge with prescription of natalizumab (Tysabri®, Biogen Idec) is used to illustrate how this conflict creates an opportunity to re-examine our goals as physicians and the nature of the physician–patient relationship. Understanding the physician’s role in that partnership, and the ethical and psychological issues impacting on how reasonable risk is determined, can improve the neurologist’s capacity to explicate such quandaries. Redefining what is required to mediate disagreement between doctors and patients about reasonable risk is at the heart of why many of us became physicians. However, such nuanced interpersonal dynamics of patient care can be neglected due to the time and resource pressures of our practices. These demands have increased the seductiveness of the efficiencies promoted by the trend toward the pseudo-objectification of evidence-based care, which has arguably monopolized the healing conversation often to the detriment of the shared narrative. We examine and attempt to reframe the fiduciary and biopsychosocial contretemps of the doctor and patient disagreeing on risk, emphasizing its humanistic, relational dimensions.
multiple sclerosis; natalizumab; medical ethics; medical decision-making; patient-physician relationship
Conversion paresis patients and healthy people feigning weakness both exhibit weak voluntary movement without detectable neuropathology. Uniquely, conversion patients lack a sense of conscious awareness of the origin of their impairment. We investigated whether conversion paresis patients show distinct electroencephalographic (EEG) markers associated with their unconscious movement deficits.
Six unilateral upper limb conversion paresis patients, 12 feigning participants asked to mimic weakness and 12 control participants performed a precued reaction time task, requiring movements of either hand, depending on precue information. Performance measures (force, reaction and movement time), and event-related EEG potentials (ERP) were compared, between groups and across hands or hemisphere, using linear mixed models.
Feigners generated the same inter-hand difference in reaction and movement time as expressed by patients, even though no specific targets were set nor feedback given on these measures. We found novel ERP signatures specific to patients. When the symptomatic hand was precued, the P3 ERP component accompanying the precue was dramatically larger in patients than in feigning participants. Additionally, in patients the earlier N1 ERP component was diminished when the precue signalled either the symptomatic or asymptomatic hand.
These results are consistent with previous suggestions that lack of awareness of the origin of their symptoms in conversion disorder patients may result from suppression of brain activity normally related to self-agency. In patients the diminished N1 to all precues is consistent with a generalised reduction in cognitive processing of movement-related precues. The P3 enhancement in patients is unlikely to simply reflect changes required for generation of impaired movements, because it was not seen in feigners showing the same behavioural deficits. Rather, this P3 enhancement in patients may represent a neural biomarker of unconscious processes, including additional emotional loading, related to active suppression of brain circuits involved in the attribution of self-agency.
Understanding the roles and responsibilities of physicians who manage mutual patients is important for assuring good patient care. Among physicians expressing a preference to involve a neurologist in the care of a patient, we evaluated agreement between neurologists and primary care physicians for the extent of specialty involvement in the evaluation and management of the patient, and the factors influencing those preferences.
DESIGN AND SETTING
A self-administered survey containing 3 clinical scenarios was developed with the assistance of a multispecialty advisory board and mailed to a stratified probability sample of physicians.
Six hundred and eight family physicians, 624 general internists, and 492 neurologists in 9 U.S. states.
For each scenario, those respondents who preferred involvement of a specialist were asked about the preferred extent of that involvement: one-time consultation with and without test/medication ordering, consultation and limited follow-up, or taking over ongoing care of the specialty problem as long as it persists.
Survey response rate was 60%. For all 3 scenarios, neurologists preferred a greater extent of specialty involvement compared to primary care physicians (all P <.05). Other physician and practice characteristic factors, including financial incentives, had lesser or no influence on the extent of specialty involvement preferred.
The disagreement between primary care physicians and specialists regarding the preferred extent of specialist involvement in the care of patients with neurological conditions should raise serious concerns among health care providers, policy makers, and educators about whether mutual patient care is coordinated and appropriate.
referral and consultation; physician's practice patterns
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease with many therapeutic options. Little is known about how neurologists select particular disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for their patients.
To understand how neurologists make decisions regarding the prescription of DMTs for patients with MS, and to explore neurologists’ experiences with individual DMTs.
From December 2012 to January 2013, members of a nationwide physician market research panel were sent an online study invitation with a link to a survey website. Eligible neurologists were included if they currently practice medicine in the United States, and if they treat ≥20 patients with MS.
A total of 102 neurologists (n=63 general neurologists; n=39 MS specialists; 81.4% male) completed the survey. The mean (standard deviation) number of years in practice since completing medical training was 16.4 (8.6) years. Overall, the most commonly prescribed DMTs were subcutaneous interferon (IFN) β-1a and glatiramer acetate; approximately 5.5% of patients were untreated. The most important attributes of DMT medication selection were (in order of importance) efficacy, safety, tolerability, patient preference, and convenience. The DMT with the highest neurologist-reported percentage of patients who were “Very/Extremely Satisfied” with their therapy was fingolimod (31.0%), followed by glatiramer acetate (13.9%; P=0.017). Compared with fingolimod (94.0%), significantly fewer (P<0.05) neurologists reported that “All/Most” of their patients were adherent to treatment with glatiramer acetate (78.0%), subcutaneous IFN β-1a (84.0%), and IFN β-1b (75.0%); no significant differences were observed with intramuscular IFN β-1a (92.9%; P=0.75). Patients’ calls to neurologists’ offices were most commonly related to side effects for all self-injectable DMTs, whereas calls about fingolimod primarily involved insurance coverage issues.
Our survey results showed that very few patients with MS did not received any DMT. Among the DMTs available at the time of the survey, neurologists reported that patients were most satisfied with, and adherent to, fingolimod, but these patients also faced more problems with insurance coverage when compared with those taking self-injectable DMTs.
multiple sclerosis; disease-modifying therapy; physician survey; treatment selection; treatment adherence; treatment satisfaction
the use of corticosteroids in multiple sclerosis as recommended by
United Kingdom consultant neurologists.
questionnaire covering the use of corticosteroids for acute multiple
sclerosis relapse and chronic progressive multiple sclerosis with
regard to frequency of use, type of corticosteroid, and dosage regime
was sent to all members of the Association of British Neurologists with
a United Kingdom address.
and twelve United Kingdom consultant neurologists replied to the survey
(74% response rate). Eighty six per cent indicated that they
prescribed corticosteroids in more than one quarter of acute multiple
sclerosis relapses seen. Intravenous methylprednisolone was recommended
at some time by 99% of consultant neurologists, the most popular
regime being 1g daily for 3 days (74%; 154/208). Over one half (53%;
109/206) never recommended a subsequent tapering course of oral
corticosteroids; of those that did, 25% (24/96) recommended a tapering
course lasting more than 1 month. Eighty eight per cent (181/206) of
prescribers of intravenous methylprednisolone were able to offer the
course as a day case on the ward; 7% (15/206) at an outpatient clinic;
and 5% (11/206) at home. Almost three quarters of neurologists
recommended oral corticosteroids for some acute relapses, although the
most popular response was for occasional use only (48%; 101/212).
Forty five per cent (96/211) at least occasionally recommended steroids for patients with chronic multiple sclerosis not experiencing an acute relapse.
the vast majority of consultant neurologists would prescribe
intravenous methylprednisolone for acute multiple sclerosis relapse at
some time, the use of corticosteroids for multiple sclerosis was
otherwise variable. There seemed to be little consensus about the use
of oral steroids in acute relapse, the prescribing of a tapering course
of oral steroids after intravenous methylprednisolone, or the utility
of steroids in chronic multiple sclerosis. Variability of prescribing
recommendations probably reflects a lack of clear evidence in the face
of a wide range of clinical situations, variable access, and timing of
access to neurologists in the acute phase of relapse and pressure on
neurologists to treat in an otherwise "hopeless" situation. Large
multicentred trials are needed to consider these issues.
Purpose of Review: Neurologic complications of HIV infection are unfortunately common, even in the era of effective antiretroviral treatment (ART). The consulting neurologist is often asked to distinguish among neurologic deterioration due to opportunistic infection (OI), immune reconstitution, or the effect of the virus itself, and to comment on the role of immunomodulatory agents in patients with HIV infection. Additionally, as successful virologic control has extended the life span of patients with HIV infection, neurologists are called upon to manage long-term complications, such as neurocognitive disorders and peripheral neuropathy.
Recent Findings: Despite the use of ART, significant numbers of patients continue to be affected by HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, although with milder forms compared to the pre-ART era. Regimens of ART have been ranked according to CNS penetration and are being studied with regard to neuropsychological outcomes. Nucleoside analogs with the greatest potential for peripheral neurotoxicity are no longer considered first-line agents for HIV treatment. Efavirenz, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, has the greatest frequency of neurologic side effects among newer ART regimens. The spectrum of clinical manifestations of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) continues to grow, including IRIS without underlying OI. A greater understanding of pathophysiology and risk factors has shown that while HIV should be treated early to prevent severe immunocompromise, delayed initiation of ART may be helpful while treating OIs.
Summary: This article reviews the neurologic complications of HIV infection, or its treatment, most commonly encountered by neurologists.
Rapid advances in brain sciences are challenging the validity of the traditional divide between neurology and psychiatry. The need for closer ties has been widely advocated.
To assess attitudes of neurologists and psychiatrists to closer links in general and to joint education in particular.
Postal questionnaire survey of trainees (SpRs) trainers (Members of Special Advisory Committees in Neurology and General and Old Age Psychiatry) and teachers (Undergraduate coordinators). Analysis based on 55 neurology and 50 psychiatry respondents.
5 general attitude questions on links showed most respondents “keen” on links and “unkeen” on current separation of disciplines. 15 topics possibly suitable for joint teaching were offered. 7 were rated between “keen” and very “keen” with maximum support for somatization, dementia, chronic pain and pharmacology. 7 were rated positively, only eating disorders was felt unsuitable. 6 options were offered for joint training opportunities. Trainees were keen on attending joint education, clinical and patient management sessions and outpatient clinics. Psychiatrists were even keener on links than neurologists with psychiatric SpRs significantly more in favour of certain items.
The survey found widespread support from trainees, trainers and teachers for closer links. Trainees were keen to attend joint clinically focussed sessions. Psychiatrists tended to be keener that neurologists on links. This survey should encourage the establishment of closer educational links at all levels.
Neurologic disorders are not uncommon at in patient departments of different hospitals. We have conducted the study to see the pattern and burden of neurologic disorders at different inpatient departments of a tertiary care centre.
This retrospective observational study was carried out from the records and referral notes of neurology department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) from July 2011 to June 2012. A total 335 patients were evaluated by consultant neurologists during this period.
Majority of the patients (59.7%) presented after the age of forty years. The mean age at presentation was 45.11 ± 17.3 years with a male predominance (63.3%). Stroke was the most common condition (47.5%) observed at referral, followed by seizure (9.3%), disease of spinal cord (7.8%) and encephalopathy (6.3%). Even after consultation, 30 patients remained undiagnosed and 6 were diagnosed as functional disorder. Department of Medicine (231, 69%) and Cardiology (61, 18.2%) made most of the calls. More than half (56%) of the stroke patients were referred from medicine and one third (35.2%) from cardiology. Seizure (67.7%), problem in spinal cord (92.3%), coma (50%), encephalopathy (57.1%), motor neuron disease (MND) (72.7%) were common reasons for referral from department of Medicine. Whereas patients with cord disease (7.3%), CNS tumor (40%), seizure disorder (6.5%) and stroke (3.8%) were referred from surgery. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology sought help for stroke (2.5%), seizure (12.9%), MND (27.3%), coma (16.7%) and encephalopathy (9.5%).
Hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, dyslipidaemia and respiratory problem were significantly associated co-morbid conditions in stroke patients (at 95% CI, p value is <0.001, <0.01, <0.001, <0.05, <0.05 respectively). Hematological disorders were common association among patients with cord problem (<0.05).
Wide ranges of neurological problems are often managed by physicians and surgeons, especially those from medicine and cardiology. Where ever available consultation from neurologists can help in diagnosing and managing these cases.
Acute isolated optic neuritis is often the first manifestation of multiple sclerosis (MS), and its management remains controversial. Over the past decade, with the advent of new disease-modifying agents, management of isolated optic neuritis has become more complicated.
To evaluate the current practice patterns of Canadian ophthalmologists and neurologists in the management of acute optic neuritis, and to evaluate the impact of recently published randomized clinical trials.
All practicing ophthalmologists and neurologists in Canada were mailed a survey evaluating the management of isolated acute optic neuritis and familiarity with recent clinical trials. 1158 surveys were mailed, and completed surveys were collected anonymously through a datafax system. Second and third mailings were sent to non-respondents 6 and 12 weeks later.
The final response rate was 34.5%. Although many acute optic neuritis patients initially present to ophthalmologists, neurologists are the physicians primarily managing these patients. Ordering magnetic resonance imaging, and treating with high dose intravenous steroids has become the standard of care. However, 15% of physicians (14% of ophthalmologists and 16% of neurologists) continue to prescribe low dose oral steroids, and steroids are being given for reasons other than to shorten the duration of visual symptoms by 73% of ophthalmologists and 50% of neurologists. More neurologists than ophthalmologists are familiar with recent clinical trials involving disease-modifying agents.
Although the management of acute optic neuritis has been evaluated in large clinical trials that were published in major international journals, some ophthalmologists and neurologists are not following evidence-based recommendations.
Attempts to determine the ideal number of consultant neurologists that will be required in the United Kingdom in the future are hampered by a lack of information on a variety of topics, one of which concerns the workload of the average neurologist at the present time. This paper attempts to correct this deficiency by examining the clinical workload of a single handed neurologist practising in the south west of England. Diagnostic information is given on the 3020 new patients seen during 1984-1986 and is compared with similar data on 836 new patients seen in 1975. The pattern of diagnoses on these patients varies little from year to year, indicating a constancy of referral habit of those who seek neurological advice. However, the referral rates for different conditions do not correspond with what would be expected from epidemiological data, for when the incidence of particular conditions in the neurology clinic is compared with the calculated incidence in the community, very wide variations are noted. The implications of these data are discussed and it is suggested that further studies should be performed before detailed predictions are made on how many neurologists will be needed in this country in the future.
Diagnosis and decisions on life-sustaining treatment (LST) in disorders of consciousness, such as the vegetative state (VS) and the minimally conscious state (MCS), are challenging for neurologists. The locked-in syndrome (LiS) is sometimes confounded with these disorders by less experienced physicians. We aimed to investigate (1) the application of diagnostic knowledge, (2) attitudes concerning limitations of LST, and (3) further challenging aspects in the care of patients. A vignette-based online survey with a randomized presentation of a VS, MCS, or LiS case scenario was conducted among members of the German Society for Neurology. A sample of 503 neurologists participated (response rate 16.4%). An accurate diagnosis was given by 86% of the participants. The LiS case was diagnosed more accurately (94%) than the VS case (79%) and the MCS case (87%, p < 0.001). Limiting LST for the patient was considered by 92, 91, and 84% of the participants who accurately diagnosed the VS, LiS, and MCS case (p = 0.09). Overall, most participants agreed with limiting cardiopulmonary resuscitation; a minority considered limiting artificial nutrition and hydration. Neurologists regarded the estimation of the prognosis and determination of the patients’ wishes as most challenging. The majority of German neurologists accurately applied the diagnostic categories VS, MCS, and LiS to case vignettes. Their attitudes were mostly in favor of limiting life-sustaining treatment and slightly differed for MCS as compared to VS and LiS. Attitudes toward LST strongly differed according to circumstances (e.g., patient’s will opposed treatment) and treatment measures.
End-of-life decisions; Limitation of life-sustaining treatment; Diagnosis; Vegetative state; Minimally conscious state
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK has issued guidelines stating all individuals with epilepsy be given information about sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
We conducted a survey of current practice among UK neurologists, using a questionnaire sent to all practising neurologists in the UK listed on the Association of British Neurologists database, asking under what circumstances they told patients about SUDEP.
Of the validated respondents, 5% discussed SUDEP with all patients, 26% with a majority, 61% with a few, and 7.5% with none. The commonest reasons for SUDEP to be discussed were the patient asking about it and the neurologist counselling people with known risk factors for SUDEP.
The variation we found, although not necessarily in tune with the guidelines, reflects the variation in patients' need for knowledge about their condition.
To assess how neurologists view mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as a clinical diagnosis and how they treat patients with mild cognitive symptoms.
Members of the American Academy of Neurology with an aging, dementia, or behavioral neurology practice focus were surveyed by self-administered questionnaire.
Survey respondents were 420 providers (response rate 48%), and 88% reported at least monthly encounters with patients experiencing mild cognitive symptoms. Most respondents recognize MCI as a clinical diagnosis (90%) and use its diagnostic code for billing purposes (70%). When seeing these patients, most respondents routinely provide counseling on physical (78%) and mental exercise (75%) and communicate about dementia risk (63%); fewer provide information on support services (27%) or a written summary of findings (15%). Most (70%) prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors at least sometimes for this population, with memantine (39%) and other agents (e.g., vitamin E) prescribed less frequently. Respondents endorsed several benefits of a diagnosis of MCI: 1) involving the patient in planning for the future (87%); 2) motivating risk reduction activities (85%); 3) helping with financial planning (72%); and 4) prescribing medications (65%). Some respondents noted drawbacks, including 1) too difficult to diagnose (23%); 2) better described as early Alzheimer disease (21%); and 3) diagnosis can cause unnecessary worry (20%).
Patients with mild cognitive symptoms are commonly seen by neurologists, who view MCI as a useful diagnostic category. Information and treatments provided to patients with MCI vary significantly, suggesting a need for practice guidelines and further research on clinical decision-making with this population.
= age-associated memory impairment;
= American Academy of Neurology;
= Alzheimer disease;
= cognitive impairment, no dementia;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition;
= mild cognitive impairment;
= not otherwise specified.
Background and Purpose
Secondary stroke prevention guidelines recommend statins for the management of dyslipidemia in ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). This study assessed the guideline-based statin prescription (GBSP) rate in Korea and the associated physician and patient factors.
A survey was conducted to assess Korean neurologists' knowledge of and attitude toward the current dyslipidemia management guidelines. The characteristics and discharge statin prescription for all consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke or TIA treated by participating neurologists during the 6 months prior to the survey were abstracted. Using algorithms to determine GBSP, we assessed the rate and independent factors of GBSP.
Of the 174 participating neurologists, 79 (45.4%) were categorized as a higher-level knowledge group. For the 4407 patients (mean age, 66.4 years; female, 42.5%; 90.6% with ischemic stroke and 9.4% with TIA) enrolled in this study, the GBSP rate at discharge was 78.6%. The GBSP rate increased significantly with increasing physician knowledge level (test for trend, p<0.0001), and was higher among patients treated by the higher-level knowledge group than for those treated by the lower-level knowledge group (81.6% vs. 74.7%; unadjusted p<0.0001 and adjusted p=0.045). Other independent factors associated with a higher GBSP rate were hypercholesterolemia and higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, while those associated with a lower GBSP rate were cardioembolism, undetermined etiology due to negative or incomplete work-up, other determined etiology, and TIA presentation.
More than three-quarters of acute ischemic stroke survivors and TIA patients receive a GBSP at discharge, and this proportion would be further improved by improving the knowledge of dyslipidemia management guidelines among neurologists.
statin; guideline; adherence; ischemic stroke; transient ischemic attack; secondary stroke prevention
Between 10 and 30% of patients seen by neurologists have symptoms for which there is no current pathophysiological explanation. The objective of this review is to answer questions many neurologists have about disorders characterised by unexplained symptoms (functional disorders) by conducting a multidisciplinary review based on published reports and clinical experience. Current concepts explain functional symptoms as resulting from auto-suggestion, innate coping styles, disorders of volition or attention. Predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating aetiological factors can be identified and contribute to a therapeutic formulation. The sympathetic communication of the diagnosis by the neurologist is important and all patients should be screened for psychiatric or psychological symptoms because up to two thirds have symptomatic psychiatric comorbidity. Treatment programmes are likely to be most successful if there is close collaboration between neurologists, (liaison) psychiatrists, psychologists, and general practitioners. Long term, symptoms persist in over 50% of patients and many patients remain dependent on financial help from the government. Neurologists can acquire the skills needed to engage patients in psychological treatment but would benefit from closer working relationships with liaison psychiatry or psychology.