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1.  Atopic profile of patients failing medical therapy for chronic rhinosinusitis 
Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is an inflammatory condition of the nasal airway and paranasal sinuses that can broadly be classified into Chronic rhinosinusitis with Nasal Polyps (CRSwNP) and Chronic rhinosinusitis without Nasal Polyps (CRSsNP). The relationship between CRS and atopy to inhalant allergens remains unclear. We sought to examine the presence of atopy in patients failing medical therapy for both types of CRS.
To analyze the frequency and distribution of allergen sensitivity in patients failing medical therapy for CRSwNP and CRSsNP in comparison to rhinitis patients without CRS and the general population.
A prospectively collected database of 334 consecutive CRS patients who had surgery after failing maximal medical therapy was queried to identify those who met inclusion criteria: a Sinus Computed Tomography(CT), an endoscopy consistent with CRS and skin-prick testing with 24 common inhalant allergens in 8 classes at our institution (n=125). Additionally, data from these CRS patients were compared to a group of 50 patients diagnosed with rhinitis who had similar symptoms but radiologically normal CT scans, as well as published normative population skin prick testing data obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study III (NHANES III). The relationship between atopy, as assessed by the frequency of skin test positivity, and radiological disease severity was assessed for several allergen classes in CRSwNP, CRSsNP and rhinitis patients.
One or more positive skin results were observed in 103/125 (82.4%) CRS patients who underwent surgery- a prevalence significantly higher than that found in the NHANES III study (p<0.05) but not different from the rhinitis control group (36/50 -72.0 %). The most prevalent positive skin test results were to dust mites and ragweed in CRSwNP, CRSsNP and rhinitis patients. Comparing these three patient groups, there were no significant differences in the rates of positive skin test results to any single allergen. However, the median number of skin test positive results was higher in CRSwNP patients compared to CRSsNP and rhinitis patients. Consistent with other studies, we found that CRSwNP patients were more likely to be male and have concurrent asthma.
In our series of patients failing medical therapy for CRS, we found higher rates of atopy compared with the general population but not compared with rhinitis patients. CRSwNP patients with medically refractory sinusitis were more likely to have multiple positive skin tests and asthma as compared to the general population or patients with either CRSsNP or rhinitis. Host barrier dysfunction may play a role in enabling multisensitization.
PMCID: PMC3124760  PMID: 21731824
Endoscopic Sinus Surgery; Atopy; Asthma; Upper Airway; Chronic Rhinosinusitis; Nasal Polyposis
2.  Deep brain stimulation plus best medical therapy versus best medical therapy alone for advanced Parkinson's disease (PD SURG trial): a randomised, open-label trial 
Lancet Neurology  2010;9(6):581-591.
Surgical intervention for advanced Parkinson's disease is an option if medical therapy fails to control symptoms adequately. We aimed to assess whether surgery and best medical therapy improved self-reported quality of life more than best medical therapy alone in patients with advanced Parkinson's disease.
The PD SURG trial is an ongoing randomised, open-label trial. At 13 neurosurgical centres in the UK, between November, 2000, and December, 2006, patients with Parkinson's disease that was not adequately controlled by medical therapy were randomly assigned by use of a computerised minimisation procedure to immediate surgery (lesioning or deep brain stimulation at the discretion of the local clinician) and best medical therapy or to best medical therapy alone. Patients were analysed in the treatment group to which they were randomised, irrespective of whether they received their allocated treatment. The primary endpoint was patient self-reported quality of life on the 39-item Parkinson's disease questionnaire (PDQ-39). Changes between baseline and 1 year were compared by use of t tests. This trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials, number ISRCTN34111222.
366 patients were randomly assigned to receive immediate surgery and best medical therapy (183) or best medical therapy alone (183). All patients who had surgery had deep brain stimulation. At 1 year, the mean improvement in PDQ-39 summary index score compared with baseline was 5·0 points in the surgery group and 0·3 points in the medical therapy group (difference −4·7, 95% CI −7·6 to −1·8; p=0·001); the difference in mean change in PDQ-39 score in the mobility domain between the surgery group and the best medical therapy group was −8·9 (95% CI −13·8 to −4·0; p=0·0004), in the activities of daily living domain was −12·4 (−17·3 to −7·5; p<0·0001), and in the bodily discomfort domain was −7·5 (−12·6 to −2·4; p=0·004). Differences between groups in all other domains of the PDQ-39 were not significant. 36 (19%) patients had serious surgery-related adverse events; there were no suicides but there was one procedure-related death. 20 patients in the surgery group and 13 in the best medical therapy group had serious adverse events related to Parkinson's disease and drug treatment.
At 1 year, surgery and best medical therapy improved patient self-reported quality of life more than best medical therapy alone in patients with advanced Parkinson's disease. These differences are clinically meaningful, but surgery is not without risk and targeting of patients most likely to benefit might be warranted.
UK Medical Research Council, Parkinson's UK, and UK Department of Health.
PMCID: PMC2874872  PMID: 20434403
3.  Sacral Nerve Stimulation For Urinary Urge Incontinence, Urgency-Frequency, Urinary Retention, and Fecal Incontinence 
Executive Summary
The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost of sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) to treat urinary urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, urinary retention, and fecal incontinence.
Background: Condition and Target Population
Urinary urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, urinary retention, and fecal incontinence are prevalent, yet rarely discussed, conditions. They are rarely discussed because patients may be uncomfortable disclosing their symptoms to a health professional or may be unaware that there are treatment options for these conditions. Briefly, urge incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine upon a sudden urge. Urgency-frequency is an uncontrollable urge to void, which results in frequent, small-volume voids. People with urgency-frequency may or may not also experience chronic pelvic pain. Urinary retention refers to the inability to void despite having the urge to void. It can be caused by a hypocontractile detrusor (weak or no bladder muscle contraction) or obstruction due to urethral overactivity. Fecal incontinence is a loss of voluntary bowel control.
The prevalence of urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, and urinary retention in the general population is 3.3% to 8.2%, and the prevalence of fecal incontinence is 1.4% to 1.9%. About three-quarters of these people will be successfully treated by behaviour and/or drug therapy. For those who do not respond to these therapies, the options for treatment are management with diapers or pads, or surgery. The surgical procedures are generally quite invasive, permanent, and are associated with complications. Pads and/or diapers are used throughout the course of treatment as different therapies are tried. Patients who respond successfully to treatment may still require pads or diapers, but to a lesser extent.
The Technology Being Reviewed: Sacral Nerve Stimulation
Sacral nerve stimulation is a procedure where a small device attached to an electrode is implanted in the abdomen or buttock to stimulate the sacral nerves in an attempt to manage urinary urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, urinary retention, and fecal incontinence. The device was originally developed to manage urinary urge incontinence; however, it has also been used in patients with urgency-frequency, urinary retention, and fecal incontinence. SNS is intended for patients who are refractory to behaviour, drug, and/or interventional therapy.
There are 2 phases in the SNS process: first, patients must undergo a test stimulation phase to determine if they respond to sacral nerve stimulation. If there is a 50% or greater improvement in voiding function, then the patient is considered a candidate for the next phase, implantation.
Review Strategy
The standard Medical Advisory Secretariat search strategy was used to locate international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles published from 2000 to November 2004. The Medical Advisory Secretariat also conducted Internet searches of Medscape (1) and the manufacturer’s website (2) to identify product information and recent reports on trials that were unpublished but that were presented at international conferences. In addition, the Web site Current Controlled Trials (3) was searched for ongoing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the role of sacral nerve stimulation in the management of voiding conditions.
Summary of Findings
Four health technology assessments were found that reviewed SNS in patients with urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, and/or urinary retention. One assessment was found that reviewed SNS in patients with fecal incontinence. The assessments consistently reported that SNS was an effective technology in managing these voiding conditions in patients who did not respond to drug or behaviour therapy. They also reported that there was a substantial complication profile associated with SNS. Complication rates ranged from 33% to 50%. However, none of the assessments reported that they found any incidences of permanent injury or death associated with the device.
The health technology assessments for urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, and urinary retention included (RCTs (level 2) as their primary source of evidence for their conclusions. The assessment of fecal incontinence based its conclusions on evidence from case series (level 4). Because there was level 2 data available for the use of SNS in patients with urinary conditions, the Medical Advisory Secretariat chose to review thoroughly the RCTs included in the assessments and search for publications since the assessments were released. However, for the health technology assessment for fecal incontinence, which contained only level 4 evidence, the Medical Advisory Secretariat searched for studies on SNS and fecal incontinence that were published since that assessment was released.
Urge Incontinence
Two RCTs were identified that compared SNS to no treatment in patients with refractory urge incontinence. Both RCTs reported significant improvements (> 50% improvement in voiding function) in the SNS group for number of incontinence episodes per day, number of pads used per day, and severity of incontinence episodes.
Urgency-Frequency (With or Without Chronic Pelvic Pain)
One RCT was identified that compared SNS to no treatment in patients with refractory urgency-frequency. The RCT reported significant improvements in urgency-frequency symptoms in the SNS group (average volume per void, detrusor pressure). In addition to the RCT, 1 retrospective review and 2 prospective case series were identified that measured pelvic pain associated with urgency-frequency in patients who underwent SNS. All 3 studies reported a significant decrease in pain at median follow-up.
Urinary Retention
One RCT was identified that compared SNS to no treatment in patients with refractory urinary retention. The RCT reported significant improvements in urinary retention in the SNS group compared to the control group for number of catheterizations required and number of voids per day. In addition to this RCT, 1 case series was also identified investigating SNS in women with urinary retention. This study also found that there were significant improvements in urinary retention after the women had received the SNS implants.
Fecal Incontinence
Three case series were identified that investigated the role of SNS in patients with fecal incontinence. All 3 reported significant improvements in fecal incontinence symptoms (number of incontinent episodes per week) after the patients received the SNS implants.
Long-Term Follow-up
None of the studies identified followed patients until the point of battery failure. Of the 6 studies identified describing the long-term follow-up of patients with SNS, follow-up periods ranged from 1.5 years to over 5 years. None of the long-term follow-up studies included patients with fecal incontinence. All of the studies reported that most of the patients who had SNS had at least a 50% improvement in voiding function (range 58%–77%). These studies also reported the number of patients who had their device explanted in the follow-up period. The rates of explantation ranged from 12% to 21%.
Safety, Complications, and Quality of Life
A 33% surgical revision rate was reported in an analysis of the safety of 3 RCTs comparing SNS to no treatment in patients with urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, or urinary retention. The most commonly reported adverse effects were pain at the implant site and lead migration. Despite the high rate of surgical revision, there were no reports of permanent injury or death in any of the studies or health technology assessments identified. Additionally, patients consistently said that they would recommend the procedure to a friend or family member.
Economic Analysis
One health technology assessment and 1 abstract were found that investigated the costing factors pertinent to SNS. The authors of this assessment did their own “indicative analysis” and found that SNS was not more cost-effective than using incontinence supplies. However, the assessment did not account for quality of life. Conversely, the authors of the abstract found that SNS was more cost-effective than incontinence supplies alone; however, they noted that in the first year after SNS, it is much more expensive than only incontinence supplies. This is owing to the cost of the procedure, and the adjustments required to make the device most effective. They also noted the positive effects that SNS had on quality of life.
Conclusions and Implications
In summary, there is level 2 evidence to support the effectiveness of SNS to treat people with urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, or urinary retention. There is level 4 evidence to support the effectiveness of SNS to treat people with fecal incontinence.
To qualify for SNS, people must meet the following criteria:
Be refractory to behaviour and/or drug therapy
Have had a successful test stimulation before implantation; successful test stimulation is defined by a 50% or greater improvement in voiding function based on the results of a voiding diary. Test stimulation periods range from 3 to 7 days for patients with urinary dysfunctions, and from 2 to 3 weeks for patients with fecal incontinence.
Be able to record voiding diary data, so that clinical results of the implantation can be evaluated.
Patients with stress incontinence, urinary retention due to obstruction and neurogenic conditions (such as diabetes with peripheral nerve involvement) are ineligible for sacral nerve stimulation.
Physicians will need to learn how to use the InterStim System for Urinary Control. Requirements for training include these:
Physicians must be experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of lower urinary tract disorders and should be trained in the implantation and use of the InterStim System for Urinary Control.
Training should include the following:
Participation in a seminar or workshop that includes instructional and laboratory training on SNS. This seminar should include a review of the evidence on SNS with emphasis on techniques to prevent adverse events.
Completion of proctoring by a physician experienced in SNS for the first 2 test stimulations and the first 2 implants
PMCID: PMC3382408  PMID: 23074472
4.  Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder 
Executive Summary
This review was conducted to assess the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).
The Technology
rTMS is a noninvasive way to stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain. During rTMS, an electrical current passes through a wire coil placed over the scalp. The current induces a magnetic field that produces an electrical field in the brain that then causes nerve cells to depolarize, resulting in the stimulation or disruption of brain activity.
Researchers have investigated rTMS as an option to treat MDD, as an add-on to drug therapy, and, in particular, as an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for patients with treatment-resistant depression.
The advantages of rTMS over ECT for patients with severe refractory depression are that general anesthesia is not needed, it is an outpatient procedure, it requires less energy, the simulation is specific and targeted, and convulsion is not required. The advantages of rTMS as an add-on treatment to drug therapy may include hastening of the clinical response when used with antidepressant drugs.
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy to locate international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles published from January 1996 to March 2004.
Summary of Findings
Some early meta-analyses suggested rTMS might be effective for the treatment of MDD (for treatment-resistant MDD and as an add-on treatment to drug therapy for patients not specifically defined as treatment resistant). There were, however, several crucial methodological limitations in the included studies that were not critically assessed. These are discussed below.
Recent meta-analyses (including 2 international health technology assessments) have done evidence-based critical analyses of studies that have assessed rTMS for MDD. The 2 most recent health technology assessments (from the Oxford Cochrane Collaboration and the Norwegian Centre for Health Technology Assessment) concluded that there is no evidence that rTMS is effective for the treatment of MDD, either as compared with a placebo for patients with treatment-resistant or nontreatment-resistant MDD, or as an alternative to ECT for patients with treatment-resistant MDD. This mainly due to the poor quality of the studies.
The major methodological limitations were identified in older meta-analyses, recent health technology assessments, and the most recently published trials (Level 2–4 evidence) on the effectiveness of rTMS for MDD are discussed below.
Small sample size was a limitation acknowledged by many of the authors. There was also a lack of a priori sample size calculation or justification.
Biased randomization may have been a problem. Generally, the published reports lacked detailed information on the method of allocation concealment used. This is important because it is impossible to determine if there was a possible influence (direct or indirect) in the allocation of the patients to different treatment groups.
The trials were single blind, evaluated by external blinded assessors, rather than double blind. Double blinding is more robust, because neither the participants nor the investigators know which participants are receiving the active treatment and which are getting a placebo. Those administering rTMS, however, cannot be blinded to whether they are administering the active treatment or a placebo.
There was patient variability among the studies. In some studies, the authors said that patients were “medication resistant,” but the definitions of resistant, if provided, were inconsistent or unclear. For example, some described “medication resistant” as failing at least one trial of drugs during the current depressive episode. Furthermore, it was unclear if the term “medication resistant” referred to antidepressants only or to combinations of antidepressants and other drug augmentation strategies (such as neuroleptics, benzodiazepine, carbamazepine, and lithium). Also variable was the type of depression (i.e., unipolar and/or bipolar), if patients were inpatients or outpatients, if they had psychotic symptoms or no psychotic symptoms, and the chronicity of depression.
Dropouts or withdrawals were a concern. Some studies reported that patients dropped out, but provided no further details. Intent-to-treat analysis was not done in any of the trials. This is important, because ignoring patients who drop out of a trial can bias the results, usually in favour of the treatment. This is because patients who withdraw from trials are less likely to have had the treatment, more likely to have missed their interim checkups, and more likely to have experienced adverse effects when taking the treatment, compared with patients who do not withdraw. (1)
Measurement of treatment outcomes using scales or inventories makes interpreting results and drawing conclusions difficult. The most common scale, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) is based on a semistructured interview. Some authors (2) reported that rating scales based on semistructured interviews are more susceptible to observation bias than are self-administered questionnaires such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Martin et al. (3) argued that the lack of consistency in effect as determined by the 2 scales (a positive result after 2 weeks of treatment as measured by the HDRS and a negative result for the BDI) makes definitive conclusions about the nature of the change in mood of patients impossible. It was suggested that because of difficulties interpreting results from psychometric scales, (4) and the subjective or unstable character of MDD, other, more objective, outcome measures such as readmission to hospital, time to hospital discharge, time to adjunctive treatment, and time off work should be used to assess rTMS for the treatment of depression.
A placebo effect could have influenced the results. Many studies reported response rates for patients who received placebo treatment. For example, Klein et al. (5) reported a control group response rate as high as 25%. Patients receiving placebo rTMS may receive a small dose of magnetic energy that may alter their depression.
Short-term studies were the most common. Patients received rTMS treatment for 1 to 2 weeks. Most studies followed-up patients for 2 to 4 weeks post-treatment. Dannon et al. (6) followed-up patients who responded to a course of ECT or rTMS for up to 6 months; however, the assessment procedure was not blinded, the medication regimen during follow-up was not controlled, and initial baseline data for the patient groups were not reported. The long-term effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is unknown, as is the long-term use, if any, of maintenance therapy. The cost-effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is also unknown. A lack of long-term studies makes cost-effectiveness analysis difficult.
The complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparing like with like difficult. Wasserman and Lisanby (7) have said that the method for precisely targeting the stimulation in this area is unreliable. It is unknown if the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is the optimal location for treatment. Further, differences in rTMS administration include number of trains per session, duration of each train, and motor threshold.
Clinical versus statistical significance. Several meta-analyses and studies have found that the degree of therapeutic change associated with rTMS across studies is relatively modest; that is, results may be statistically, but not necessarily clinically, significant. (8-11). Conventionally, a 50% reduction in the HDRS scores is commonly accepted as a clinically important reduction in depression. Although some studies have observed a statistically significant reduction in the depression rating, many have not shows the clinically significant reduction of 50% on the HDRS. (11-13) Therefore, few patients in these studies would meet the standard criteria for response. (9)
Clinical/methodological diversity and statistical heterogeneity. In the Norwegian health technology assessment, Aarre et al. (14) said that a formal meta-analysis was not feasible because the designs of the studies varied too much, particularly in how rTMS was administered and in the characteristics of the patients. They noted that the quality of the study designs was poor. The 12 studies that comprised the assessment had small samples, and highly variable inclusion criteria and study designs. The patients’ previous histories, diagnoses, treatment histories, and treatment settings were often insufficiently characterized. Furthermore, many studies reported that patients had treatment-resistant MDD, yet did not listclear criteria for the designation. Without this information, Aarre and colleagues suggested that the interpretation of the results is difficult and the generalizability of results is questionable. They concluded that rTMS cannot be recommended as a standard treatment for depression: “More, larger and more carefully designed studies are needed to demonstrate convincingly a clinically relevant effect of rTMS.”
In the Cochrane Collaboration systematic review, Martin et al. (3;15) said that the complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparison of like versus like difficult. A statistical test for heterogeneity (chi-square test) examines if the observed treatment effects are more different from each other than one would expect due to random error (or chance) alone. (16) However, this statistical test must be interpreted with caution because it has low power in the (common) situation of a meta-analysis when the trials have small sample sizes or are few. This means that while a statistically significant result may indicate a problem with heterogeneity, a nonsignificant result must not be taken as evidence of no heterogeneity.
Despite not finding statistically significant heterogeneity, Martin et al. reported that the overall mean baseline depression values for the severity of depression were higher in the treatment group than in the placebo group. (3;15) Although these differences were not significant at the level of each study, they may have introduced potential bias into the meta-analysis of pooled data by accentuating the tendency for regression to the mean of the more extreme values. Individual patient data from all the studies were not available; therefore, an appropriate adjustment according to baseline severity was not possible. Martin et al. concluded that the findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis provided insufficient evidence to suggest that rTMS is effective in the treatment of depression. Moreover, there were several confounding factors (e.g., definition of treatment resistance) in the studies, thus the authors concluded, “The rTMS technique needs more high quality trials to show its effectiveness for therapeutic use.”
Due to several serious methodological limitations in the studies that have examined the effectiveness of rTMS in patients with MDD, it is not possible to conclude that rTMS either is or is not effective as a treatment for MDD (in treatment-resistant depression or in nontreatment-resistant depression).
PMCID: PMC3387754  PMID: 23074457
5.  Physiotherapy Rehabilitation After Total Knee or Hip Replacement 
Executive Summary
The objective of this health technology policy analysis was to determine, where, how, and when physiotherapy services are best delivered to optimize functional outcomes for patients after they undergo primary (first-time) total hip replacement or total knee replacement, and to determine the Ontario-specific economic impact of the best delivery strategy. The objectives of the systematic review were as follows:
To determine the effectiveness of inpatient physiotherapy after discharge from an acute care hospital compared with outpatient physiotherapy delivered in either a clinic-based or home-based setting for primary total joint replacement patients
To determine the effectiveness of outpatient physiotherapy delivered by a physiotherapist in either a clinic-based or home-based setting in addition to a home exercise program compared with a home exercise program alone for primary total joint replacement patients
To determine the effectiveness of preoperative exercise for people who are scheduled to receive primary total knee or hip replacement surgery
Clinical Need
Total hip replacements and total knee replacements are among the most commonly performed surgical procedures in Ontario. Physiotherapy rehabilitation after first-time total hip or knee replacement surgery is accepted as the standard and essential treatment. The aim is to maximize a person’s functionality and independence and minimize complications such as hip dislocation (for hip replacements), wound infection, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.
The Therapy
The physiotherapy rehabilitation routine has 4 components: therapeutic exercise, transfer training, gait training, and instruction in the activities of daily living. Physiotherapy rehabilitation for people who have had total joint replacement surgery varies in where, how, and when it is delivered. In Ontario, after discharge from an acute care hospital, people who have had a primary total knee or hip replacement may receive inpatient or outpatient physiotherapy. Inpatient physiotherapy is delivered in a rehabilitation hospital or specialized hospital unit. Outpatient physiotherapy is done either in an outpatient clinic (clinic-based) or in the person’s home (home-based). Home-based physiotherapy may include practising an exercise program at home with or without supplemental support from a physiotherapist.
Finally, physiotherapy rehabilitation may be administered at several points after surgery, including immediately postoperatively (within the first 5 days) and in the early recovery period (within the first 3 months) after discharge. There is a growing interest in whether physiotherapy should start before surgery. A variety of practises exist, and evidence regarding the optimal pre- and post-acute course of rehabilitation to obtain the best outcomes is needed.
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy, which included searching the databases of Ovid MEDLINE, CINHAL, EMBASE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and PEDro from 1995 to 2005. English-language articles including systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs, and studies with a sample size of greater than 10 patients were included. Studies had to include patients undergoing primary total hip or total knee replacement, aged 18 years of age or older, and they had to have investigated one of the following comparisons: inpatient rehabilitation versus outpatient (clinic- or home-based therapy) rehabilitation, land-based post-acute care physiotherapy delivered by a physiotherapist compared with patient self-administered exercise and a land-based exercise program before surgery. The primary outcome was postoperative physical functioning. Secondary outcomes included the patient’s assessment of therapeutic effect (overall improvement), perceived pain intensity, health services utilization, treatment side effects, and adverse events
The quality of the methods of the included studies was assessed using the criteria outlined in the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Injuries Group Quality Assessment Tool. After this, a summary of the biases threatening study validity was determined. Four methodological biases were considered: selection bias, performance bias, attrition bias, and detection bias. A meta-analysis was conducted when adequate data were available from 2 or more studies and where there was no statistical or clinical heterogeneity among studies. The GRADE system was used to summarize the overall quality of evidence.
Summary of Findings
The search yielded 422 citations; of these, 12 were included in the review including 10 primary studies (9 RCTs, 1 non-RCT) and 2 systematic reviews.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat review included 2 primary studies (N = 334) that examined the effectiveness of an inpatient physiotherapy rehabilitation program compared with an outpatient home-based physiotherapy program on functional outcomes after total knee or hip replacement surgery. One study, available only as an abstract, found no difference in functional outcome at 1 year after surgery (TKR or THR) between the treatments. The other study was an observational study that found that patients who are younger than 71 years of age on average, who do not live alone, and who do not have comorbid illnesses recover adequate function with outpatient home-based physiotherapy. However results were only measured up to 3 months after surgery, and the outcome measure they used is not considered the best one for physical functioning.
Three primary studies (N = 360) were reviewed that tested the effectiveness of outpatient home-based or clinic-based physiotherapy in addition to a self-administered home exercise program, compared with a self-administered exercise program only or in addition to using another therapy (phone calls or continuous passive movement), on postoperative physical functioning after primary TKR surgery. Two of the studies reported no difference in change from baseline in flexion range of motion between those patients receiving outpatient or home-based physiotherapy and doing a home exercise program compared with patients who did a home exercise program only with or without continuous passive movement. The other study reported no difference in the Western Ontario and McMaster Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) scores between patients receiving clinic-based physiotherapy and practising a home exercise program and those who received monitoring phone calls and did a home exercise program after TKR surgery.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed two systematic reviews evaluating the effects of preoperative exercise on postoperative physical functioning. One concluded that preoperative exercise is not effective in improving functional recovery or pain after TKR and any effects after THR could not be adequately determined. The other concluded that there was inconclusive evidence to determine the benefits of preoperative exercise on functional recovery after TKR. Because 2 primary studies were added to the published literature since the publication of these systematic reviews the Medical Advisory Secretariat revisited the question of effectiveness of a preoperative exercise program for patients scheduled for TKR ad THR surgery.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat also reviewed 3 primary studies (N = 184) that tested the effectiveness of preoperative exercise beginning 4-6 weeks before surgery on postoperative outcomes after primary TKR surgery. All 3 studies reported negative findings with regard to the effectiveness of preoperative exercise to improve physical functioning after TKR surgery. However, 2 failed to show an effect of the preoperative exercise program before surgery in those patients receiving preoperative exercise. The third study did not measure functional outcome immediately before surgery in the preoperative exercise treatment group; therefore the study’s authors could not document an effect of the preoperative exercise program before surgery. Regarding health services utilization, 2 of the studies did not find significant differences in either the length of the acute care hospital stay or the inpatient rehabilitation care setting between patients treated with a preoperative exercise program and those not treated. The third study did not measure health services utilization.
These results must be interpreted within the limitations and the biases of each study. Negative results do not necessarily support a lack of treatment effect but may be attributed to a type II statistical error.
Finally, the Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed 2 primary studies (N = 136) that examined the effectiveness of preoperative exercise on postoperative functional outcomes after primary THR surgery. One study did not support the effectiveness of an exercise program beginning 8 weeks before surgery. However, results from the other did support the effectiveness of an exercise program 8 weeks before primary THR surgery on pain and functional outcomes 1 week before and 3 weeks after surgery.
Based on the evidence, the Medical Advisory Secretariat reached the following conclusions with respect to physiotherapy rehabilitation and physical functioning 1 year after primary TKR or THR surgery:
There is high-quality evidence from 1 large RCT to support the use of home-based physiotherapy instead of inpatient physiotherapy after primary THR or TKR surgery.
There is low-to-moderate quality evidence from 1 large RCT to support the conclusion that receiving a monitoring phone call from a physiotherapist and practising home exercises is comparable to receiving clinic-based physiotherapy and practising home exercises for people who have had primary TKR surgery. However, results may not be generalizable to those who have had THR surgery.
There is moderate evidence to suggest that an exercise program beginning 4 to 6 weeks before primary TKR surgery is not effective.
There is moderate evidence to support the effectiveness of an exercise program beginning 8 weeks before surgery to improve physical functioning 3 weeks after THR surgery.
PMCID: PMC3382414  PMID: 23074477
6.  Personalized Medicine for Management of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia 
The Journal of urology  2014;192(1):16-23.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) affects over 50 percent of men by age 60 and is the cause of millions of dollars of healthcare expenditure for treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and urinary obstruction. Despite the widespread use of medical therapy, there is no universal therapy that treats all men with symptomatic BPH, and at least 30% of patients do not respond to medical management and a subset require surgery. Significant advances have been made in understanding the natural history and development of the prostate, such as elucidating the role of the enzyme 5α reductase Type 2 (5AR2), and advances in genomics and biomarker discovery offer the potential for a more targeted approach to therapy. We review the current understanding of BPH progression as well as key genes and signaling pathways implicated in the process such as 5α reductase. We also explore the potential of biomarker screening and gene-specific therapies as tools to risk stratify BPH patients and identify those with symptomatic or medically resistant forms.
Materials and Methods
A PubMed® literature search of current and past peer-reviewed literature on prostate development, lower urinary tract symptoms, BPH pathogenesis, targeted therapy, biomarkers, epigenetics, 5AR2 and personalized medicine was performed. An additional Google Scholar™ search was conducted to broaden the scope of the review. Relevant reviews and original research articles were examined as well as their cited references, and a synopsis of original data was generated with the goal of informing the practicing urologist of these advances and their implications.
BPH is associated with a state of hyperplasia of both the stromal and epithelial compartments, with 5AR2 and androgen signaling playing key roles in development and maintenance of the prostate. Chronic inflammation, multiple growth factor and hormonal signaling pathways, and medical comorbidities play an intricate role in prostate tissue homeostasis as well as its evolution into the clinical state of BPH. Resistance to medical therapy with finasteride may occur through silencing of the 5AR2 gene by DNA methylation, leading to a state in which 30% of adult prostates do not express 5AR2. Novel biomarkers such as single nucleotide polymorshisms may be used to risk stratify patients with symptomatic BPH and identify those at risk of progression or failure of medical therapy. Several inhibitors of the androgen receptor and other signaling pathways have recently been identified which appear to attenuate BPH progression and may offer alternative targets for medical therapy.
Progressive worsening of LUTS and bladder outlet obstruction secondary to BPH is the result of multiple pathways including androgen receptor signaling, pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factor signals. New techniques in genomics, proteomics and epigenetics have led to the discovery of aberrant signaling pathways, novel biomarkers, DNA methylation signatures and potential gene-specific targets. As personalized medicine continues to grow, the ability to risk stratify patients with symptomatic BPH, identify those at higher risk of progression, and seek alternative therapies for those likely to fail conventional options will become the standard of targeted therapy.
PMCID: PMC4143483  PMID: 24582540
prostate; benign prostatic hyperplasia; 5-alpha reductase; finasteride; personalized medicine
7.  Predictive Factors for a Good Outcome Following Endoscopic Sinus Surgery 
The aim of this study was to establish if there are any symptoms which can predict increased patient satisfaction following Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (ESS) and whether these symptoms correlate with Lund-Mackay score on Computerised Tomography (CT). A prospective observational study was performed. Ninety-three consecutive patients who were offered ESS were recruited from an otolaryngology department in a UK Teaching Hospital. All patients had failed medical therapies for chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), recurrent acute sinusitis and/or nasal polyposis. Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire pre-operatively and 12 months after surgery. Symptoms were assessed using a visual analogue scale. Endoscopic examination of the nose was performed pre and post-operatively. Lund-Mackay score was recorded for the pre-operative CT scan. Results were analysed using linear regression analysis and Pearson correlation coefficient. All symptoms improved after ESS (P < 0.001). However, a high pre-operative score for nasal discharge and olfactory disturbance were predictive of lesser improvement in symptom scoring (P < 0.001). Patients undergoing polypectomy with ESS demonstrated greater improvement in symptom score than those undergoing ESS with septoplasty or turbinate reduction surgery. There was no correlation between symptom score improvement and pre-operative Lund-Mackay score (r = 0.09). Patients who have high pre-operative symptom scores for nasal discharge and olfactory disturbance may gain less benefit from ESS, whilst those with nasal polyposis appear to perceive the greatest benefit. Increasing pre-operative Lund-Mackay score is not a predictor of a favourable operative outcome.
PMCID: PMC3738771  PMID: 24427661
Endoscopic sinus surgery; Outcome; Lund-Mackay scoring system
8.  Long term follow up of through-the-scope balloon dilation as compared to strictureplasty and bowel resection of intestinal strictures in crohn’s disease 
Background & aims: Ileo-colonic strictures are common complication of Crohn’s disease (CD), and may result in repeated endoscopic or surgical therapy with a risk of further complications, such as perforation or short bowel syndrome. Strictures develop as a consequence of tissue remodelling and fibrosis due to chronic inflammation. This study compares the outcome of CD patients undergoing primarily endoscopic treatment with those undergoing surgery at an university hospital. Methods: In this study we retrospectively included 88 CD patients with intestinal strictures (37 males, 51 females, mean age 40 years, range 19-65 years) of both our medical and our surgical department, who underwent either surgical or endoscopic therapy between January 2002 and January 2006 with prospective, controlled follow-up, extended till January 2010 (mean follow-up period: 5 years; range 4-8 years). The primary end-point was operation- and symptom-free time. Patients were primarily divided into four groups: only surgical therapy, only endoscopic therapy, endoscopy with subsequent surgery, and initial surgical therapy followed by endoscopic dilations. Results: 53% of all patients remained surgery-free with mean follow-up of 49 months; a single endoscopic dilation was sufficient enough in 9 patients to achieve a surgery-free time of 51 months, other patients required up to 5 dilations. The average interval between first and second dilation was 6.5 months, between second and third 10.5 months. In the group of patients with only endoscopic therapy, surgery- and symptom-free time was shorter, as compared to the group of only surgical therapy. We found that stenoses in the surgical group with an average length of 6.5 cm were as expected longer, as compared to the endoscopic group (3 cm, ranging from 2-4 cm). The surgery-free time was 49 months (42-71 months, P = 0.723) with a symptom-free time of 12 months (4.5-46 months, P = 0.921). In the group of only surgically treated patients, 68.4% of the patients had only one stenosis, 18.4% had 2-3 stenoses and 13.2% more than 3 stenoses. In all patients the surgery- and symptoms- free time was 69 months (57-83 months, P = 0.850 and 0.908). The other two groups showed similar results. We found no significant effect of characteristic of stenosis (length, inflammation, the number of stenoses), injection of prednisolone, disease activity at the time of dilation and medication at the time of dilation on the long-term outcome. Importantly, the success of symptom free time correlated with the diameter of the balloon. Conclusions: Endoscopic dilation should be considered as a first-line therapy for short, accessible, fibrotic strictures. Careful patient selection and proper diagnostic imaging pre-procedure are essential requirements for safe and successful treatment. The balloon diameter seems to correlate positively with the long term outcome of dilation. However, at ever shorter intervals between endoscopic interventions, surgery should be discussed as an option for further treatment.
PMCID: PMC4270558  PMID: 25550777
Crohn’s disease; intestinal stricture; endoscopic dilation; strictureplasty
9.  Combination formoterol and budesonide as maintenance and reliever therapy versus inhaled steroid maintenance for chronic asthma in adults and children 
Traditionally inhaled treatment for asthma has been considered as preventer and reliever therapy. The combination of formoterol and budesonide in a single inhaler introduces the possibility of using a single inhaler for both prevention and relief of symptoms (single inhaler therapy).
The aim of this review is to compare formoterol and corticosteroid in single inhaler for maintenance and relief of symptoms with inhaled corticosteroids for maintenance and a separate reliever inhaler.
Search methods
We last searched the Cochrane Airways Group trials register in September 2008.
Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials in adults and children with chronic asthma.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion and extracted the characteristics and results of each study. Authors or manufacturers were asked to supply unpublished data in relation to primary outcomes.
Main results
Five studies on 5,378 adults compared single inhaler therapy with current best practice, and did not show a significant reduction in participants with exacerbations causing hospitalisation (Peto OR 0.59; 95% CI 0.24 to 1.45) or treated with oral steroids (OR 0.83; 95% CI 0.66 to 1.03). Three of these studies on 4281 adults did not show a significant reduction in time to first severe exacerbation needing medical intervention (HR 0.96; 95% CI 0.85 to 1.07). These trials demonstrated a reduction in the mean total daily dose of inhaled corticosteroids with single inhaler therapy (mean reduction ranged from 107 to 267 micrograms/day, but the trial results were not combined due to heterogeneity). The full results from four further studies on 4,600 adults comparing single inhaler therapy with current best practice are awaited.
Three studies including 4,209 adults compared single inhaler therapy with higher dose budesonide maintenance and terbutaline for symptom relief. No significant reduction was found with single inhaler therapy in the risk of patients suffering an asthma exacerbation leading to hospitalisation (Peto OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.28 to 1.09), but fewer patients on single inhaler therapy needed a course of oral corticosteroids (OR 0.54; 95% CI 0.45 to 0.64). These results translate into an eleven month number needed to treat of 14 (95% CI 12 to 18), to prevent one patient being treated with oral corticosteroids for an exacerbation. The run-in for these studies involved withdrawal of long-acting beta2-agonists, and patients were recruited who were symptomatic during run-in.
One study included children (N = 224), in which single inhaler therapy was compared to higher dose budesonide. There was a significant reduction in participants who needed an increase in their inhaled steroids with single inhaler therapy, but there were only two hospitalisations for asthma and no separate data on courses of oral corticosteroids. Less inhaled and oral corticosteroids were used in the single inhaler therapy group and the annual height gain was also 1 cm greater in the single inhaler therapy group, [95% CI 0.3 to 1.7 cm].
There was no significant difference found in fatal or non-fatal serious adverse events for any of the comparisons.
Authors’ conclusions
Single inhaler therapy can reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations needing oral corticosteroids in comparison with fixed dose maintenance inhaled corticosteroids. Guidelines and common best practice suggest the addition of regular long-acting beta2-agonist to inhaled corticosteroids for uncontrolled asthma, and single inhaler therapy has not been demonstrated to significantly reduce exacerbations in comparison with current best practice, although results of five large trials are awaiting full publication. Single inhaler therapy is not currently licensed for children under 18 years of age in the United Kingdom.
PMCID: PMC4053857  PMID: 19370682
Administration; Inhalation; AdrenalCortexHormones [*administration & dosage]; Anti-Asthmatic Agents [*administration & dosage]; Asthma [*drug therapy]; Bronchodilator Agents [administration & dosage]; Budesonide [*administration & dosage]; Chronic Disease; Drug Therapy; Combination; Ethanolamines [*administration & dosage]; Terbutaline [administration & dosage]; Adult; Child; Humans
10.  Effectiveness of FESS in Smell Improvement of Sinusitis Patients 
The aim of this research was to verify the effect of functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) on olfactory dysfunction in patients who suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis. We enrolled prospective consecutive patients at a tertiary institution who were undergoing FESS; for these patients prolonged medical therapy for chronic rhinosinusitis had failed. Patients were asked to grade their olfactory dysfunction from 1 to 5 with 1 representing lack of any smell function and 5 representing a completely normal sense of smell. Moreover, the pre- and postoperative smell identification test of the University of Pennsylvania was performed for all participating patients. In addition, data including computed tomography scores, nasal endoscopy, and the presence or absence of asthma as well as smoking habits were recorded and analyzed. Patients were followed at least 1 year after surgery. Data were collected on 89 patients who had undergone sinus surgery. Postoperative olfactory function was 77% improved for all subjects as a group. Higher involvement of sinus in computed tomography correlated with poorer results in olfactory UPSIT40 score. Patients’ olfaction was significantly related to polyp pathology, duration of disease, age, smoking habits and history of asthma. A variety of patients’ characteristics have impact on olfactory outcome of sinusitis patients after FESS.
PMCID: PMC3738785  PMID: 24427662
Smell disorder; Sinusitis; Polyposis; Endoscopic sinus surgery
11.  Preoperative/Neoadjuvant Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Response and Resection Percentages 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000267.
Jörg Kleef and colleagues systematically reviewed studies on neoadjuvant therapy and tumor response, toxicity, resection, and survival percentages in pancreatic cancer and suggest that patients with locally nonresectable tumors should be included in neoadjuvant protocols.
Pancreatic cancer has an extremely poor prognosis and prolonged survival is achieved only by resection with macroscopic tumor clearance. There is a strong rationale for a neoadjuvant approach, since a relevant percentage of pancreatic cancer patients present with non-metastatic but locally advanced disease and microscopic incomplete resections are common. The objective of the present analysis was to systematically review studies concerning the effects of neoadjuvant therapy on tumor response, toxicity, resection, and survival percentages in pancreatic cancer.
Methods and Findings
Trials were identified by searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from 1966 to December 2009 as well as through reference lists of articles and proceedings of major meetings. Retrospective and prospective studies analyzing neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer patients, followed by re-staging, and surgical exploration/resection were included. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Pooled relative risks and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using random-effects models. Primary outcome measures were proportions of tumor response categories and percentages of exploration and resection. A total of 111 studies (n = 4,394) including 56 phase I–II trials were analyzed. A median of 31 (interquartile range [IQR] 19–46) patients per study were included. Studies were subdivided into surveys considering initially resectable tumors (group 1) and initially non-resectable (borderline resectable/unresectable) tumors (group 2). Neoadjuvant chemotherapy was given in 96.4% of the studies with the main agents gemcitabine, 5-FU (and oral analogues), mitomycin C, and platinum compounds. Neoadjuvant radiotherapy was applied in 93.7% of the studies with doses ranging from 24 to 63 Gy. Averaged complete/partial response probabilities were 3.6% (95% CI 2%–5.5%)/30.6% (95% CI 20.7%–41.4%) and 4.8% (95% CI 3.5%–6.4%)/30.2% (95% CI 24.5%–36.3%) for groups 1 and 2, respectively; whereas progressive disease fraction was estimated to 20.9% (95% CI 16.9%–25.3%) and 20.8% (95% CI 14.5%–27.8%). In group 1, resectability was estimated to 73.6% (95% CI 65.9%–80.6%) compared to 33.2% (95% CI 25.8%–41.1%) in group 2. Higher resection-associated morbidity and mortality rates were observed in group 2 versus group 1 (26.7%, 95% CI 20.7%–33.3% versus 39.1%, 95% CI 29.5%–49.1%; and 3.9%, 95% CI 2.2%–6% versus 7.1%, 95% CI 5.1%–9.5%). Combination chemotherapies resulted in higher estimated response and resection probabilities for patients with initially non-resectable tumors (“non-resectable tumor patients”) compared to monotherapy. Estimated median survival following resection was 23.3 (range 12–54) mo for group 1 and 20.5 (range 9–62) mo for group 2 patients.
In patients with initially resectable tumors (“resectable tumor patients”), resection frequencies and survival after neoadjuvant therapy are similar to those of patients with primarily resected tumors and adjuvant therapy. Approximately one-third of initially staged non-resectable tumor patients would be expected to have resectable tumors following neoadjuvant therapy, with comparable survival as initially resectable tumor patients. Thus, patients with locally non-resectable tumors should be included in neoadjuvant protocols and subsequently re-evaluated for resection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. It begins when a cell in the pancreas (an organ lying behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin that controls blood sugar levels) acquires genetic changes that allow it to grow uncontrollably and, sometimes, to spread around the body (metastasize). Because pancreatic cancer rarely causes any symptoms early in its development, it is locally advanced in more than a third of patients and has already metastasized in another half of patients by the time it is diagnosed. Consequently, on average, people die within 5–8 months of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. At present, the only chance for cure is surgical removal (resection) of the tumor, part of the pancreas, and other nearby digestive organs. This procedure—the Whipple procedure—is only possible in the fifth of patients whose tumor is found when it is small enough to be resectable, and even in these patients, the cure rate associated with surgery is less than 25%, although radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery (adjuvant therapy) can be beneficial.
Why Was This Study Done?
For patients whose tumor has metastasized, palliative chemotherapy to slow down tumor growth and to minimize pain is the only treatment option. But, for the many patients whose disease is locally advanced and unresectable at diagnosis, experts think that “neoadjuvant” therapy might be helpful. Neoadjuvant therapy—chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy given before surgery—aims to convert unresectable tumors into resectable tumors by shrinking the visible tumor and removing cancer cells that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Randomized phase III trials—studies in which groups of patients are randomly assigned to different interventions and specific outcomes measured—are the best way to determine whether an intervention has any clinical benefits, but no randomized phase III trials of neoadjuvant therapy for unresectable pancreatic cancer have been undertaken. Therefore, in this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies), the researchers analyze data from other types of studies to investigate whether neoadjuvant therapy for pancreatic cancer provides any clinical benefits.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their systematic review, the researchers identified 111 studies involving 4,394 patients in which the effects of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy on tumor response, tumor resectability, and patient survival had been investigated. They subdivided the studies into two groups: group 1 studies included patients whose tumors were considered resectable on preoperative examination, and group 2 studies included patients whose tumors were borderline resectable or unresectable. In their meta-analysis, the researchers found that similar percentages of the tumors in both groups responded to neoadjuvant therapy by shrinking or regressing and that about a fifth of the tumors in each group grew larger or metastasized during neoadjuvant therapy. In the group 1 studies, three-quarters of the tumors were resectable after neoadjuvant therapy (a decrease in the proportion of tumors that could be treated surgically) whereas in the group 2 studies, a third of the tumors were resectable after neoadjuvant therapy (an increase in the proportion of tumors that could be treated surgically). After resection, the average survival time for group 1 patients was 23.3 months, a similar survival time to that seen in patients treated with surgery and adjuvant therapy. The average survival time for group 2 patients after resection was 20.5 months.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the average survival time after neoadjuvant therapy and surgery in patients whose tumor was judged resectable before neoadjuvant therapy was similar to that of patients treated with chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy after surgery suggests that for patients with resectable tumors, neoadjuvant therapy will not provide any clinical benefit. By contrast, the finding that a third of patients initially judged unresectable were able to undergo resection after neoadjuvant therapy and then had a similar survival rate to patients judged resectable before neoadjuvant treatment strongly suggests that patients presenting with locally advanced/unresectable tumors should be offered neoadjuvant therapy and then re-evaluated for resection. Randomized trials are now needed to confirm this finding and to determine the optimum neoadjuvant therapy for this group of patients.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information for patients and health professionals about all aspects of pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish), including a booklet for patients
The American Cancer Society also provides detailed information about pancreatic cancer
The UK National Health Service and Cancer Research UK include information for patients on pancreatic cancer on their Web sites
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish),, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network give more information to pancreatic cancer patients, their families, and caregivers
PMCID: PMC2857873  PMID: 20422030
12.  Characterization of specific antibody deficiency in adults with medically refractory chronic rhinosinusitis 
Specific antibody deficiency may predispose patients to recurrent respiratory tract infections. There is limited literature assessing specific antibody deficiency in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). This study evaluated the role of specific antibody deficiency in patients with CRS who have failed medical therapy.
We performed a retrospective chart review of patients with CRS who underwent functional endoscopic sinus surgery and had prior assessment for humoral immunodeficiency. Each patient’s record was reviewed for serum quantitative immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgA and anti–Streptococcus pneumoniae antibody titers measured at baseline and 6 weeks postvaccination with the 23-valent unconjugated pneumococcal vaccine. Clinical characteristics, including asthma, atopy, and nasal polyps, were recorded.
Of the 129 CRS patients who met inclusion criteria, 93 (72%) had low baseline antipneumococcal titers. Fifteen (11.6%) patients were diagnosed with specific antibody deficiency based on an inadequate response to the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. The group of patients with specific antibody deficiency had significantly lower serum IgA levels when compared with those patients with normal preimmunization titers (138 ± 67.3 versus 330 ± 356; p < 0.05). Patients with specific antibody deficiency had a significantly lower number of preimmunization protective antipneumococcal titers when compared with vaccine responders (1.41 versus 2.72; p < 0.0005).
This retrospective study indicates that patients with medically refractory CRS may have a high prevalence of low preimmunization antipneumococcal titers and specific antibody deficiency. Furthermore, lower serum IgA levels identified in these specific antibody deficiency patients suggests that a prospective study to further characterize this relationship is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3387730  PMID: 21819760
13.  Leukotriene antagonists in nasal polyposis: A meta-analysis and systematic review 
Leukotriene antagonists (LTAs) provide a potential strategy for the management of chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRSwNP), which is often refractory to medical and surgical treatment. The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of LTA treatment alone and in conjunction with intranasal corticosteroids (INCSs) on nasal symptoms, objective clinical outcomes, and immune parameters in CRSwNP.
A systematic review was performed including studies that assessed the effectiveness of LTAs on clinical outcome measures of CRSwNP. Exclusion criteria were trials assessing LTAs in CRS without nasal polyps or asthma symptoms only. Quantitative analysis was performed using a random effects model.
Twelve studies fulfilled eligibility: five randomized control trials and seven case series. LTAs showed significant improvements in CRSwNP symptoms over placebo; however, these randomized trials were unable to be combined via meta-analysis. The two studies used in meta-analysis showed a standardized mean difference of pooled overall symptom scores of 0.02 (95% confidence interval, −0.39–0.44) between LTA and INCS study arms, indicating no difference between the treatment modalities. Improvement was described by all studies in symptoms, clinical outcomes, and/or immune parameters after LTA treatment, with greater improvements in a subset of symptoms beyond that observed with INCSs. Concomitant asthma, aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease, and atopy did not significantly or consistently affect these results.
LTAs are an effective tool for treating CRSwNP, with limited benefit as an adjunctive therapy. Additional study is required to determine the most beneficial strategy and patient population for their use.
PMCID: PMC3899527  PMID: 24274224
Antagonist; chronic; leukotriene; montelukast; polyps; rhinosinusitis; sinusitis; symptoms; zafirlukast; zileuton
14.  Transforaminal Endoscopic Lumbar Decompression & Foraminoplasty: A 10 Year prospective survivability outcome study of the treatment of foraminal stenosis and failed back surgery 
Conventional diagnosis between axial and foraminal stenosis is suboptimal and long-term outcomes limited to posterior decompression. Aware state Transforaminal Endoscopic Lumbar Decompression and Foraminoplasty (TELDF) offers a direct aware state means of localizing and treating neuro-claudicant back pain, referred pain and weakness associated with stenosis failing to respond to conventional rehabilitation, pain management or surgery. This prospective survivability study examines the outcomes 10 years after TELDF in patients with foraminal stenosis arising from degeneration or failed back surgery.
For 10 years prospective data were collected on 114 consecutive patients with multilevel spondylosis and neuro-claudicant back pain, referred pain and weakness with or without failed back surgery whose symptoms had failed to respond to conventional rehabilitation and pain management and who underwent TELDF. The level responsible for the predominant presenting symptoms of foraminal stenosis, determined on clinical grounds, MRI and or CT scans, was confirmed by transforaminal probing and discography. Patients underwent TELDF at the spinal segment at which the predominant presenting symptoms were reproduced. Those that required treatment at an additional segment were excluded. Outcomes were assessed by postal questionnaire with failures being examined by the independent authors using the Visual Analogue Pain Scale (VAPS), the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and the Prolo Activity Score.
Cohort integrity was 69%. 79 patients were available for evaluation after removal of the deceased (12), untraceable (17) and decliners (6) from the cohort.
VAP scores improved from a pre-operative mean of 7.3 to 2.4 at year 10. The ODI improved from a mean of 58.5 at baseline to 17.5 at year 10. 72% of reviewed patients fulfilled the definition of an “Excellent” or “Good Clinical Impact” at review using the Spinal Foundation Outcome Score. Based on the Prolo scale, 61 patients (77%) were able to return and continue in full or part-time work or retirement activity post-TELDF. Complications of TELDF were limited to transient nerve irritation, which affected 19% of the cohort for 2 – 4 weeks. TELDF was equally beneficial in those with failed back surgery.
TELDF is a beneficial intervention for the long-term treatment of severely disabled patients with neuro-claudicant symptoms arising from spinal or foraminal stenosis with a dural diameter of more than 3mm, who have failed to respond to conventional rehabilitation or chronic pain management. It results in considerable improvements in symptoms and function sustained 10 years later despite co-morbidity, ageing or the presence of failed back surgery.
Clinical Relevance
The long term outcome of TELDF in severely disabled patients with neuro-claudicant symptoms arising from foraminal stenosis which had failed to respond to conventional rehabilitation, surgery or chronic pain management suggests that foraminal pathology is a major cause of lumbar axial and referred pain and that TELDF should be offered as primary treatment for these conditions even in the elderly and infirm. The application of TELDF at multiple levels may further widen the benefits of this technique.
PMCID: PMC4325492
Lateral Recess Stenosis; Axial Stenosis; Foraminal stenosis; Spinal Decompression; Failed Back Surgery; Endoscopic Decompression; Foraminoplasty; Foraminotomy; Failed Fusion Surgery; Failed Chronic Pain Management; Differential Discography; Transforaminal Spinal Probing; disc degeneration; Disc Protrusion; Long-Term Outcome
15.  Therapy of unspecific tinnitus without organic cause 
There is a variety of medical and non-medical therapies in practice, which were not evaluated regarding its effectiveness by any systematic evidence oriented investigation.
A number of therapies of medical and non-medical type try to treat the different types of tinnitus. The evidence in the scientific literature also had to be cleared in the field of diagnosis and classification as well as medical/psychiatric/psychological procedures of existing medical therapy.
The HTA report had to investigate the following questions:
Which evidence do diagnostic methods in recognition of tinnitus have? Which types of therapy show medical effectiveness at the acute or chronic tinnitus without an organic cause? Which consequences (need for further research, future procedures) can be drawn?
In the following databases "tinnitus" was searched according to the search string:
HTA97; INAHTA; CDAR94; CDSR93; CCTR93; ME66; ME0A; HT83; SM78; CA66; CB85; BA70; BA93; EM74; IS74; ET80; EB94; IA70; AZ72; CV72; GE79; EU93; HN69; ED93; EA08
Result: 1932 studies, unsorted after assessment in accordance with EBM criterions, selection: 409 studies.
Due to the completely heterogeneous representation modes of the therapeutic approaches at the treatment of the chronic tinnitus no quantitative synthesis method could be performed. Therefore the methodology of a qualitative overview has been carried out.
The diagnostic confirmation of the non-specific tinnitus without organic cause meets with the problem of the assurance of the diagnosis tinnitus. According to the current opinion the stepwise diagnostics is carried out also in the case of the so called subjective tinnitus. Nothing can be said about the evidence of these procedures since no publication was found about that. A study concerning the evidence of the diagnostic questionnaires from Goebel and Hiller [1] comes to the end that the tinnitus questionnaire frequently used (TF) [2] is the best evaluated procedure.
The number of therapies which treat tinnitus is exceptionally high and makes clear, that the search for "the" tinnitus therapy is still going on. According to the current knowledge tinnitus genesis is multifactorial and therefore there can’t be any standard therapy for tinnitus. The following seven categories can be distinguished:
Ad 1: Machine-aided acoustic therapies
From many studies regarding machine-aided acoustic therapy of tinnitus only two showed an evidence degree that allows scientifically correct statements about the effectiveness of these procedures. Selectively significant improvements could be shown in the comparison with a placebo (apparatus switched off) a superiority of tinnitus-maskers.
Ad 2: Electrostimulation
In an application study of electro-stimulation the results were not evaluated statistically, but it was described descriptively that a successful medical treatment can be expected in about 50% of the cases.
Ad 3: Psychological therapy procedures
Hypnosis did not show positive effectiveness. With regard to biofeedback it can be concluded that this method can be effective in individual cases, however regarded as unreliable from missing reproducibility. Neurobiofeedback could prove that it had a positive therapeutic effect.
From eight controlled studies to relaxation techniques and cognitive behaviour therapy four studies showed a therapeutic effectiveness and four failed. Combined therapies proved generally to be more effective than individual types.
The behaviour medical psychotherapy could show a positive therapy effect. In a study with cognitive therapy and relaxation (three groups, a passive relaxation, an active relaxation and a cognitive therapy) short-term successes could be stated (for one month), however, the parameters of success returned on the initial value after four months.
Also only coincidental and short-term successes could be achieved with cognitive behaviour therapy training, autogenic training and structured group psychotherapy.
Ad 4: Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Unfortunately, the published results of the TRT are methodically frequently bad and scientific of a poor value. Many of the studies presented until now regarding tinnitus retraining therapy are not informative in their scientific context.
In a study with 95 patients with a chronic tinnitus TRT could show a significant, more than six months lasting stable success by comparison to a combination of TET with group behaviour therapy (improvement be achieved around at least ten points in the tinnitus questionnaire (TF)).
Ad 5: Pharmacological therapies
Rheological drugs (medicines for hemodilution) could not show any statistically significant effect in the treatment of tinnitus.
Studies to the medical treatment with tocainides (lidocaine) showed repeatable positive effects on tinnitus in higher dosages (as of 1.2 mg/day). Lamotrigine as a medicine had an effect positively only at with a small fraction of patients. Two studies with GABA receptor agonists could not prove therapeutic effects for tinnitus. Undesired side-effects were observed. Injections with Carvoverine (a glutamate antagonist) achieved significantly successes with a special form of tinnitus, the “Cochlear-synaptic tinnitus (CST)".
A tricyclic antidepressant (Amitriptilin) could prove superiority against placebo. This effect could be confirmed in another study. However Clonazepame (a benzodiazepine), could not achieve any improvement. Short-term improvements were achieved with other benzodiazepines (Clonazepame, Diazepam, Flurazepame, Oxacepame and Alprazolame).
A German retrospective study suggests a graded pharmacological therapy by means of rheological infusion therapy, applications of neurotransmitters, and injections of lidocaine. This method achieved a disappearance or a recovery of the complaints at 95.3% of the acute and 26.7% of the chronic cases.
Ad 6: Surgical procedures
The effects of the operative excision of the stapes (stapedectomy) showed significant effects concerning tinnitus. This method is a routine operation to recover hearing, effects on tinnitus were observed only coincidently.
There are generally high frequencies of improvements of tinnitus after cochlea implantations; however the risk of deterioration is present with this method.
Ad 7: Other and alternative therapy procedures
The hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be considered successful after acute events with tinnitus. The therapy should be started in the first month after appearance of the tinnitus.
The methods transcranial-, electromagnetic and transcutaneous nerve stimulations did not show any significant effects on tinnitus. Also low laser medical treatment showed disappointing effects.
The “pneumatic external contra-pulsation” is described as an unproblematic usable procedure by the authors of the examination, but 10% of the patients had to stop the medical treatment because of complications associated with the medical treatment.
Acupuncture showed significant improvements in comparison to medical treatment. The effectiveness of this therapy could not be reproduced in another study. Five other studies between 1993 and 1999 also did not show any therapeutic effect of this method. Gingko-Biloba preparations did not show any positive effects in large-scale studies on tinnitus.
Neither the diagnostic procedures nor the therapeutic methods or the individual therapies reach a usual scientific level in medicine. Unsolved problems concerning insurance, economic as well as legal problems have resulted for the patients and for caring stuff from this unsatisfactory situation.
Numerous competitive tinnitus emergence models led to an incredible creativity in trying out different therapy approaches. No convergence of the therapy procedures can be seen within the last decades of tinnitus research, contrariwise there is always more and more “creativity” of new approaches.
Priority has to be given to find the cause of tinnitus since therapies are a consequence of a better understanding of these symptoms that evidence oriented investigations on an usual scientific level can be started.
The innumerable therapeutic approaches, seeming completely incoherent to their effects should be coordinated on the meaningfulness, on the success parameters and with patient safety in light of the most plausible explanation models for non-specific chronic Tinnitus. To this the facilities of competence centres or related science- directing facilities are recommendable.
Examinations which are carried out also with small numbers show often methodical insufficiencies. It is necessary that minimal requirements on a scientifically clinical experiment, such as design, case number calculation, analytic statistics, control group, are fulfilled.
It is recommendable, that further research has to be promoted regarding tinnitus causes that a coordinated evidence-orientated treatment will be developed.
PMCID: PMC3011356  PMID: 21289968
16.  Real-life effectiveness of budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy in asthma patients across Asia: SMARTASIA study 
The use of budesonide/formoterol in a single inhaler for both maintenance and reliever therapy is a recommended option for treatment of persistent asthma not responding well to inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) alone.
This was a multi-centre open-label study on patients whose asthma condition remained inadequately controlled by various asthma treatments other than budesonide/formoterol. After a 2-week run-in period, eligible patients underwent a 12-week treatment period with budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort SMART®, 160/4.5 μg) twice daily plus as needed. Patient’s asthma control and quality of life were assessed using the 5-item Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ-5) and the standardized Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ-S), respectively.
A total of 862 eligible asthma patients who have had asthma for a mean duration of 10.73 ± 12.03 years entered a 12-week treatment with budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy. During treatment, ACQ-5 score improved significantly by 0.58 ± 0.93 (95% CI, 0.51 to 0.64, P < 0.0001) from the baseline level of 1.62 ± 1.00. AQLQ(S) score improved by 0.70 ± 0.89 (95% CI, 0.64 to 0.76, P < 0.0001) from baseline. Asthma symptom score was also reduced significantly (P < 0.0001); between run-in and treatment periods, night- and day-time symptom scores were reduced by 0.32 ± 0.54 (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.35) and 0.30 ± 0.52 (95% CI, 0.27 to 0.34), respectively. The percentage of nights with awakenings due to asthma symptoms was reduced by 11.09 ± 26.13% (95% CI, 9.34 to 12.85%), while the percentage of asthma-control and symptom-free days increased by 20.90 ± 34.40% (95% CI, 18.59 to 23.21%) and 23.89 ± 34.62% (95% CI, 21.56 to 26.21%), respectively (P < 0.0001). Together with the improvement in asthma control, the number of night- and day-time inhalations of as-needed reliever medication decreased by 0.30 ± 0.82 (95% CI, 0.24 to 0.35) inhalations and 0.30 ± 0.97 (95% CI, 0.23 to 0.36) inhalations, respectively (P < 0.0001). No unexpected adverse events were reported.
During treatment of inadequately controlled asthmatic patients with budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy, significant improvement in patients’ asthma control and reductions in asthma symptoms and as-needed medication use was observed. Patients’ quality of life was improved and the treatment was well tolerated.
Trial registration (NCT00939341)
PMCID: PMC3637584  PMID: 23557023
Asthma management; Asthma control; Budesonide/formoterol; Symbicort maintenance and reliever therapy
17.  276 A 4-Year Follow-up in Children With Moderate/Severe Asthma after Withdrawal 1 Year Omalizumab Treatment 
Asthma guidelines include omalizumab in the step up management in those patients with severe non-controlled asthma despite the use of the inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) at the highest dose recommended and/or oral corticosteroids (OCS) courses. This communication describes the 4 year follow up of children with moderate/severe allergic asthma treated for 1 year with add-on omalizumab after discontinuation.
7 children (6 to <12 years) with moderate/severe uncontrolled asthma following strict inclusion/exclusion criteria. The patients completed a 1 year treatment with omalizumab according to the DBPC CIGE025 clinical study protocol. Four years follow up after discontinuation of the study medication was performed. It included clinical assessment, different asthma-related outcomes and lung function in outpatient hospital office
All patients that received xolair during the study period achieved good asthma control and high dose ICS (mean dose fluticasone 500 mcg) were could be discontinued. Surprisingly, the 7 patients that received Xolair for one year were completely free of asthma symptoms during the first 3 years of follow up. They did not use any additional asthma medication. After the third year of follow up, only 2 out of 7 (28%) patients begun with persistent asthma symptoms and exacerbations. These patients have required rescue medication and then regular controller medication (budesonide 400 mcg). We could not identified any risk factor helping in predicting those who had symptoms relapsing. Lung function, number of exacerbation, number of hospitalization, eosinophilia, IgE levels or previous treatments with OCS
Most of these patients 5 out of 7 still remain asymptomatic 4 years after discontinuation Xolair without regular ICS treatment. They are still not using any controller medication only 2 patients had exacerbations and at present show persistent mild asthma controlled with medium ICS therapy. This follow up would generate the hypothesis that omalizumab could have a potential as a modifier of the natural history of asthma beyond the improvement of symptoms control in children with moderate/severe uncontrolled asthma. Further studies are needed to test this hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3512580
18.  Patient-centered decision making in the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis 
The Laryngoscope  2013;123(10):2341-2346.
To explore possible factors which might impact a patient’s choice to pursue endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS) or continue with medical management for treatment of refractory chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS).
Study Design
Cross-sectional evaluation of a multi-center, prospective cohort
242 subjects with CRS were prospectively enrolled within four academic, tertiary care centers across North America with ongoing symptoms despite prior medical treatment. Subjects either self-selected continued medical management (n=62) or ESS (n=180) for treatment of sinonasal symptoms. Differences in demographics, comorbid conditions, and clinical measures of disease severity between subject groups were compared. Validated metrics of social support, personality, risk aversion, and physician-patient relationships were compared using bivariate analyses, predicted probabilities, and receiver operating characteristic curves at the 0.05 alpha level.
No significant differences were found between treatment groups for any demographic characteristic, clinical cofactor, or measure of social support, personality, or the physician-patient relationship. Subjects electing to pursue sinus surgery did report significantly worse average quality-of-life (QOL) scores on the 22-item Sinonasal Outcome Test (SNOT-22; p<0.001) compared to those electing continued medical therapy (54.6±18.9 vs. 39.4±17.7), regardless of surgical history or polyp status. SNOT-22 score significantly predicted treatment selection (OR=1.046; 95% CI: 1.028,1.065; p<0.001) and was found to accurately discriminate between subjects choosing endoscopic sinus surgery and those electing medical management 72% of the time.
Worse patient-reported disease-severity, as measured by the SNOT-22, was significantly associated with the treatment choice for CRS. Strong consideration should be given for incorporating CRS-specific QOL measures into routine clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3788096  PMID: 23856802
Chronic disease; sinusitis; decision making; general surgery; drug therapy; therapeutics
19.  Endoscopic Sinus Surgery in Chronic Rhinosinusitis and Nasal Polyposis: A Comparative Study 
Nasal polyposis are common presentations in patients of chronic rhinosinusitis and are considered to be associated with more severe forms of disease with poor treatment outcome. The presentation and treatment outcome after endoscopic sinus surgery in patients of chronic rhinosinusitis and nasal polyposis have been analysed in this study. A prospective analysis of 90 patients of chronic rhinosinusitis who were classified into two groups depending on presence and absence of nasal polyps was performed in the study. The two groups were evaluated using subjective (patient complaints) and objective (computed tomography scan and endoscopy scores) criteria. Preoperative data were compared with data obtained 12 months post endoscopic sinus surgery. The study included 38 patients of chronic rhinosinusitis and 52 patients of nasal polyps. The patients of nasal polyp group presented with increased severity of symptoms of nasal blockage, nasal discharge and reduced sense of smell as compared to the chronic rhinosinusitis group who had significantly higher presentation of headache and facial pain. The preoperative CT scan revealed significantly higher bilateral disease with increased involvement of multiple sinuses in nasal polyp group. Post endoscopic sinus surgery both the groups showed significant improvement in their symptoms with the nasal polyp group demonstrating reduction in improvement on 1 year follow up. In our study we have found the patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and nasal polyp have varied severity of symptoms with the nasal polyp group having higher nasal symptoms and increased severity as compared to chronic rhinosinusitis group. Though the universal rationale of management by adequate drainage and ventilation of sinus is similar in both groups, there is a reduction in both objective and subjective scores during 1 year follow up in the nasal polyp group.
PMCID: PMC3109960  PMID: 22319717
Chronic rhinosinusitis; Nasal polyps; Endoscopic sinus surgery
20.  Impact of nasal polyps on quality of life of chronic sinusitis patients 
To study the significance of nasal polyps on the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) and their influence on surgical outcomes.
Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data comparing two groups of patients diagnosed with CRS with and without polyps who underwent surgery with a minimum of 3 month follow up period. Subjective scoring was performed using the Sino-nasal Outcome Test (SNOT-20) questionnaire. Computed tomography (CT) scans were compared using the Lund-Mackay scoring system. Endoscopic findings were graded according to Lanza and Kennedy staging system. The two groups were analyzed for the need of revision surgery.
30 patients underwent surgical management of CRS over a period of one year. 20 were male, 10 were female and the average age was 26 years (range 15–55years). Polyps were present in 15 patients with CRS while, the other 15 did not have polyps. The average CT score was 10.13 for the polyp group and 9.79 for patients without polyp.The Polyp group SNOT-20 preoperative scores averaged 20.27 with improvement to 3.80 at 2 weeks, 2.67 at 1 month and 2.93 at 3 months (86.21% improvement p=0.001). Non-polyp group SNOT-20 scores were 18.80 preoperatively with improvement to 4.67 at 2 weeks, 3.40 at 1 month and 3.27 at 3 months (81.83% improvement). Preop diagnostic endoscopy on polyp group was 5.27 which improved to 2.13 in 2 weeks, 1.33 in 1 month and 1.53 in 3 months (73% improvement). In the non polyp group it was 4.53 pre-operatively which improved to 1.20 in 2 weeks, 0.93 in 1 month and to 1.13 in 3months (69% improvement). 6 patients required revision surgery (20%), 3 (10%) belonging to polyp group and 3 (10%) who did not have polyps.
Nasal Polyp has a significant negative impact on the patients with CRS. Patients with polyps have higher symptom scores, worse objective findings compared with patients without polyp, but patients with polyp show more improvement after surgical intervention and need for revision surgery is equal in both groups.
PMCID: PMC3451800  PMID: 23120412
Chronic sinusitis; Polyp; Quality of Life; FESS
21.  Minimal access surgery compared with medical management for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: five year follow-up of a randomised controlled trial (REFLUX) 
Objectives To determine the long term clinical effectiveness of laparoscopic fundoplication as an alternative to drug treatment for chronic gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
Design Five year follow-up of multicentre, pragmatic randomised trial (with parallel non-randomised preference groups).
Setting Initial recruitment in 21 UK hospitals.
Participants Responders to annual questionnaires among 810 original participants. At entry, all had had GORD for >12 months.
Intervention The surgeon chose the type of fundoplication. Medical therapy was reviewed and optimised by a specialist. Subsequent management was at the discretion of the clinician responsible for care, usually in primary care.
Main outcome measures Primary outcome measure was self reported quality of life score on disease-specific REFLUX questionnaire. Other measures were health status (with SF-36 and EuroQol EQ-5D questionnaires), use of antireflux medication, and complications.
Results By five years, 63% (112/178) of patients randomised to surgery and 13% (24/179) of those randomised to medical management had received a fundoplication (plus 85% (222/261) and 3% (6/192) of those who expressed a preference for surgery and for medical management). Among responders at 5 years, 44% (56/127) of those randomised to surgery were taking antireflux medication versus 82% (98/119) of those randomised to medical management. Differences in the REFLUX score significantly favoured the randomised surgery group (mean difference 8.5 (95% CI 3.9 to 13.1), P<0.001, at five years). SF-36 and EQ-5D scores also favoured surgery, but were not statistically significant at five years. After fundoplication, 3% (12/364) had surgical treatment for a complication and 4% (16) had subsequent reflux-related operations—most often revision of the wrap. Long term rates of dysphagia, flatulence, and inability to vomit were similar in the two randomised groups.
Conclusions After five years, laparoscopic fundoplication continued to provide better relief of GORD symptoms than medical management. Adverse effects of surgery were uncommon and generally observed soon after surgery. A small proportion had re-operations. There was no evidence of long term adverse symptoms caused by surgery.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN15517081.
PMCID: PMC3629902  PMID: 23599318
22.  Schizophrenia 
Clinical Evidence  2012;2012:1007.
The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is approximately 0.7% and incidence rates vary between 7.7 and 43.0 per 100,000; about 75% of people have relapses and continued disability, and one third fail to respond to standard treatment. Positive symptoms include auditory hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Negative symptoms (demotivation, self-neglect, and reduced emotion) have not been consistently improved by any treatment.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of drug treatments for positive, negative, or cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia? What are the effects of drug treatments in people with schizophrenia who are resistant to standard antipsychotic drugs? What are the effects of interventions to improve adherence to antipsychotic medication in people with schizophrenia? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to May 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 51 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: amisulpride, chlorpromazine, clozapine, depot haloperidol decanoate, haloperidol, olanzapine, pimozide, quetiapine, risperidone, sulpiride, ziprasidone, zotepine, aripiprazole, sertindole, paliperidone, flupentixol, depot flupentixol decanoate, zuclopenthixol, depot zuclopenthixol decanoate, behavioural therapy, clozapine, compliance therapy, first-generation antipsychotic drugs in treatment-resistant people, multiple-session family interventions, psychoeducational interventions, and second-generation antipsychotic drugs in treatment-resistant people.
Key Points
The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is approximately 0.7% and incidence rates vary between 7.7 and 43.0 per 100,000; about 75% of people have relapses and continued disability, and one third fail to respond to standard treatment. Positive symptoms include auditory hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Negative symptoms (anhedonia, asociality, flattening of affect, and demotivation) and cognitive dysfunction have not been consistently improved by any treatment.
Standard treatment of schizophrenia has been antipsychotic drugs, the first of which included chlorpromazine and haloperidol, but these so-called first-generation antipsychotics can all cause adverse effects such as extrapyramidal adverse effects, hyperprolactinaemia, and sedation. Attempts to address these adverse effects led to the development of second-generation antipsychotics.
The second-generation antipsychotics amisulpride, clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone may be more effective at reducing positive symptoms compared with first-generation antipsychotic drugs, but may cause similar adverse effects, plus additional metabolic effects such as weight gain.
CAUTION: Clozapine has been associated with potentially fatal blood dyscrasias. Blood monitoring is essential, and it is recommended that its use be limited to people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.
Pimozide, quetiapine, aripiprazole, sulpiride, ziprasidone, and zotepine seem to be as effective as standard antipsychotic drugs at improving positive symptoms. Again, these drugs cause similar adverse effects to first-generation antipsychotics and other second-generation antipsychotics.
CAUTION: Pimozide has been associated with sudden cardiac death at doses above 20 mg daily.
We found very little evidence regarding depot injections of haloperidol decanoate, flupentixol decanoate, or zuclopenthixol decanoate; thus, we don’t know if they are more effective than oral treatments at improving symptoms.
In people who are resistant to standard antipsychotic drugs, clozapine may improve symptoms compared with first-generation antipsychotic agents, but this benefit must be balanced against the likelihood of adverse effects. We found limited evidence on other individual first- or second-generation antipsychotic drugs other than clozapine in people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.In people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia, we don't know how second-generation agents other than clozapine compare with each other or first-generation antipsychotic agents, or how clozapine compares with other second-generation antipsychotic agents, because of a lack of evidence.
We don't know whether behavioural interventions, compliance therapy, psychoeducational interventions, or family interventions improve adherence to antipsychotic medication compared with usual care because of a paucity of good-quality evidence.
It is clear that some included studies in this review have serious failings and that the evidence base for the efficacy of antipsychotic medication and other interventions is surprisingly weak. For example, although in many trials haloperidol has been used as the standard comparator, the clinical trial evidence for haloperidol is less impressive may be expected.
By their very nature, systematic reviews and RCTs provide average indices of probable efficacy in groups of selected individuals. Although some RCTs limit inclusion criteria to a single category of diagnosis, many studies include individuals with different diagnoses such as schizoaffective disorder. In all RCTs, even in those recruiting people with a single DSM or ICD-10 diagnosis, there is considerable clinical heterogeneity.
Genome-wide association studies of large samples with schizophrenia demonstrate that this clinical heterogeneity reflects, in turn, complex biological heterogeneity. For example, genome-wide association studies suggest that around 1000 genetic variants of low penetrance and other individually rare genetic variants of higher penetrance, along with epistasis and epigenetic mechanisms, are thought to be responsible, probably with the biological and psychological effects of environmental factors, for the resultant complex clinical phenotype. A more stratified approach to clinical trials would help to identify those subgroups that seem to be the best responders to a particular intervention.
To date, however, there is little to suggest that stratification on the basis of clinical characteristics successfully helps to predict which drugs work best for which people. There is a pressing need for the development of biomarkers with clinical utility for mental health problems. Such measures could help to stratify clinical populations or provide better markers of efficacy in clinical trials, and would complement the current use of clinical outcome scales. Clinicians are also well aware that many people treated with antipsychotic medication develop significant adverse effects such as extrapyramidal symptoms or weight gain. Again, our ability to identify which people will develop which adverse effects is poorly developed, and might be assisted by using biomarkers to stratify populations.
The results of this review tend to indicate that as far as antipsychotic medication goes, current drugs are of limited efficacy in some people, and that most drugs cause adverse effects in most people. Although this is a rather downbeat conclusion, it should not be too surprising, given clinical experience and our knowledge of the pharmacology of the available antipsychotic medication. All currently available antipsychotic medications have the same putative mechanism of action — namely, dopaminergic antagonism with varying degrees of antagonism at other receptor sites. More efficacious antipsychotic medication awaits a better understanding of the biological pathogenesis of these conditions so that rational treatments can be developed.
PMCID: PMC3385413  PMID: 23870705
23.  Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation 
Executive Summary
To review the effectiveness, safety, and costing of ablation methods to manage atrial fibrillation (AF). The ablation methods reviewed were catheter ablation and surgical ablation.
Clinical Need
Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular, usually rapid, heart rate that limits the ability of the atria to pump blood effectively to the ventricles.
Atrial fibrillation can be a primary diagnosis or it may be associated with other diseases, such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart muscle function, chronic lung diseases, and coronary heart disease. The most common symptom of AF is palpitations. Symptoms caused by decreased blood flow include dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Some patients with AF do not experience any symptoms.
According to United States data, the incidence of AF increases with age, with a prevalence of 1 per 200 people aged between 50 and 60 years, and 1 per 10 people aged over 80 years. In 2004, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) estimated that the rate of hospitalization for AF in Canada was 582.7 per 100,000 population. They also reported that of the patients discharged alive, 2.7% were readmitted within 1 year for stroke.
One United States prevalence study of AF indicated that the overall prevalence of AF was 0.95%. When the results of this study were extrapolated to the population of Ontario, the prevalence of AF in Ontario is 98,758 for residents aged over 20 years.
Currently, the first-line therapy for AF is medical therapy with antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs). There are several AADs available, because there is no one AAD that is effective for all patients. The AADs have critical adverse effects that can aggravate existing arrhythmias. The drug selection process frequently involves trial and error until the patient’s symptoms subside.
The Technology
Ablation has been frequently described as a “cure” for AF, compared with drug therapy, which controls AF but does not cure it. Ablation involves directing an energy source at cardiac tissue. For instance, radiofrequency energy uses heat to burn tissue near the source of the arrhythmia. The purpose is to create a series of scar tissue, so that the aberrant electrical pathways can no longer exist.
Because the pulmonary veins are the predominant source of AF initiation, the primary goal of ablation is to isolate the pulmonary veins from the left atria through the creation of a conduction block.
There are 2 methods of ablation: catheter ablation and surgical (operative) ablation. Radiofrequency energy is most commonly used for ablation. Catheter ablation involves inserting a catheter through the femoral vein to access the heart and burn abnormal foci of electrical activity by direct contact or by isolating them from the rest of the atrium. The surgical ablation is performed minimally invasively via direct visualization or with the assistance of a special scope for patients with lone AF.
Review Strategy
In March 2006, the following databases were searched: Cochrane Library International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (first quarter 2006), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (first quarter 2006), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (first quarter 2006), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2006), MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-indexed Citations (1966 to March 1, 2006), and EMBASE (1980 to 2006 week 9). The Medical Advisory Secretariat also searched Medscape on the Internet for recent reports on trials that were unpublished but that were presented at international conferences. In addition, the Web site Current Controlled Trials ( was searched for ongoing trials investigating ablation for atrial fibrillation. Search terms included: radiofrequency ablation, catheter ablation and atrial fibrillation.
Summary of Findings
Sixteen RCTs were identified that compared ablation methods in patients with AF. Two studies were identified that investigated first-line therapy for AF or atrial flutter. Seven other studies examined patients with drug-refractory, lone AF; and the remaining 7 RCTs compared ablation plus heart surgery to heart surgery alone in patients with drug-refractory AF and concomitant heart conditions.
First-line Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation or Atrial Flutter
Both studies concluded that catheter ablation was associated with significantly improved long-term freedom from arrhythmias and quality of life compared with medical therapy. These studies included different patient populations (those with AF in one pilot study, and those with atrial flutter in the other). Catheter ablation as first-line treatment is considered experimental at this time.
Catheter Ablation Versus Medical Therapy in Patients With Drug-Refractory, Lone Atrial Fibrillation
In this review, catheter ablation had success rates (freedom from arrhythmia) that ranged from 42% to 90% (median, 74%) in patients with drug-refractory, lone AF. All 3 of the RCTs comparing catheter ablation to medical therapy in patients with drug-refractory, lone AF found a significant improvement in terms of freedom from arrhythmia over a minimum of 12 months follow-up (P<.05).
Ablation Plus Heart Surgery Versus Heart Surgery Alone in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation
It is clear that patients with drug-refractory AF who are undergoing concomitant heart surgery (usually mitral valve repair or replacement) benefit significantly from surgical ablation, in terms of long-term freedom from AF, without substantial additional risk compared to open heart surgery alone. This group of patients represents about 1% of the patients with atrial fibrillation, thus the majority of the burden of AF lies within the patients with lone AF (i.e. those not requiring additional heart surgery).
Catheter ablation appears to be an effective treatment for patients with drug-refractory AF whose treatment alternatives are limited. Ablation technology is continually evolving with increasing success rates associated with the ablation procedure.
PMCID: PMC3379526  PMID: 23074498
24.  Biventricular Pacing (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy) 
Executive Summary
In 2002, (before the establishment of the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee), the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a health technology policy assessment on biventricular (BiV) pacing, also called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). The goal of treatment with BiV pacing is to improve cardiac output for people in heart failure (HF) with conduction defect on ECG (wide QRS interval) by synchronizing ventricular contraction. The Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there was evidence of short (6 months) and longer-term (12 months) effectiveness in terms of cardiac function and quality of life (QoL). More recently, a hospital submitted an application to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee to review CRT, and the Medical Advisory Secretariat subsequently updated its health technology assessment.
Chronic HF results from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to act as a pump. It is estimated that 1% to 5% of the general population (all ages) in Europe have chronic HF. (1;2) About one-half of the patients with HF are women, and about 40% of men and 60% of women with this condition are aged older than 75 years.
The incidence (i.e., the number of new cases in a specified period) of chronic HF is age dependent: from 1 to 5 per 1,000 people each year in the total population, to as high as 30 to 40 per 1,000 people each year in those aged 75 years and older. Hence, in an aging society, the prevalence (i.e., the number of people with a given disease or condition at any time) of HF is increasing, despite a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.
A recent study revealed 28,702 patients were hospitalized for first-time HF in Ontario between April 1994 and March 1997. (3) Women comprised 51% of the cohort. Eighty-five percent were aged 65 years or older, and 58% were aged 75 years or older.
Patients with chronic HF experience shortness of breath, a limited capacity for exercise, high rates of hospitalization and rehospitalization, and die prematurely. (2;4) The New York Heart Association (NYHA) has provided a commonly used functional classification for the severity of HF (2;5):
Class I: No limitation of physical activity. No symptoms with ordinary exertion.
Class II: Slight limitations of physical activity. Ordinary activity causes symptoms.
Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Less than ordinary activity causes symptoms. Asymptomatic at rest.
Class IV: Inability to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms at rest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates that 35% of patients with HF are in functional NYHA class I; 35% are in class II; 25%, class III; and 5%, class IV. (5) Surveys (2) suggest that from 5% to 15% of patients with HF have persistent severe symptoms, and that the remainder of patients with HF is evenly divided between those with mild and moderately severe symptoms.
Overall, patients with chronic, stable HF have an annual mortality rate of about 10%. (2) One-third of patients with new-onset HF will die within 6 months of diagnosis. These patients do not survive to enter the pool of those with “chronic” HF. About 60% of patients with incident HF will die within 3 years, and there is limited evidence that the overall prognosis has improved in the last 15 years.
To date, the diagnosis and management of chronic HF has concentrated on patients with the clinical syndrome of HF accompanied by severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Major changes in treatment have resulted from a better understanding of the pathophysiology of HF and the results of large clinical trials. Treatment for chronic HF includes lifestyle management, drugs, cardiac surgery, or implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Despite pharmacologic advances, which include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, spironolactone, and digoxin, many patients remain symptomatic on maximally tolerated doses.
The Technology
Owing to the limitations of drug therapy, cardiac transplantation and device therapies have been used to try to improve QoL and survival of patients with chronic HF. Ventricular pacing is an emerging treatment option for patients with severe HF that does not respond well to medical therapy. Traditionally, indications for pacing include bradyarrhythmia, sick sinus syndrome, atrioventricular block, and other indications, including combined sick sinus syndrome with atrioventricular block and neurocardiogenic syncope. Recently, BiV pacing as a new, adjuvant therapy for patients with chronic HF and mechanical dyssynchrony has been investigated. Ventricular dysfunction is a sign of HF; and, if associated with severe intraventricular conduction delay, it can cause dyssynchronous ventricular contractions resulting in decreased ventricular filling. The therapeutic intent is to activate both ventricles simultaneously, thereby improving the mechanical efficiency of the ventricles.
About 30% of patients with chronic HF have intraventricular conduction defects. (6) These conduction abnormalities progress over time and lead to discoordinated contraction of an already hemodynamically compromised ventricle. Intraventricular conduction delay has been associated with clinical instability and an increased risk of death in patients with HF. (7) Hence, BiV pacing, which involves pacing left and right ventricles simultaneously, may provide a more coordinated pattern of ventricular contraction and thereby potentially reduce QRS duration, and intraventricular and interventricular asynchrony. People with advanced chronic HF, a wide QRS complex (i.e., the portion of the electrocardiogram comprising the Q, R, and S waves, together representing ventricular depolarization), low left ventricular ejection fraction and contraction dyssynchrony in a viable myocardium and normal sinus rhythm, are the target patients group for BiV pacing. One-half of all deaths in HF patients are sudden, and the mode of death is arrhythmic in most cases. Internal cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) combined with BiV pacemakers are therefore being increasingly considered for patients with HF who are at high risk of sudden death.
Current Implantation Technique for Cardiac Resynchronization
Conventional dual-chamber pacemakers have only 2 leads: 1 placed in the right atrium and the other in the right ventricle. The technique used for BiV pacemaker implantation also uses right atrial and ventricular pacing leads, in addition to a left ventricle lead advanced through the coronary sinus into a vein that runs along the ventricular free wall. This permits simultaneous pacing of both ventricles to allow resynchronization of the left ventricle septum and free wall.
Mode of Operation
Permanent pacing systems consist of an implantable pulse generator that contains a battery and electronic circuitry, together with 1 (single-chamber pacemaker) or 2 (dual-chamber pacemaker) leads. Leads conduct intrinsic atrial or ventricular signals to the sensing circuitry and deliver the pulse generator charge to the myocardium (muscle of the heart).
Complications of Biventricular Pacemaker Implantation
The complications that may arise when a BiV pacemaker is implanted are similar to those that occur with standard pacemaker implantation, including pneumothorax, perforation of the great vessels or the myocardium, air embolus, infection, bleeding, and arrhythmias. Moreover, left ventricular pacing through the coronary sinus can be associated with rupture of the sinus as another complication.
Conclusion of 2003 Review of Biventricular Pacemakers by the Medical Advisory Secretariat
The randomized controlled trials (RCTs) the Medical Advisory Secretariat retrieved analyzed chronic HF patients that were assessed for up to 6 months. Other studies have been prospective, but nonrandomized, not double-blinded, uncontrolled and/or have had a limited or uncalculated sample size. Short-term studies have focused on acute hemodynamic analyses. The authors of the RCTs reported improved cardiac function and QoL up to 6 months after BiV pacemaker implantation; therefore, there is level 1 evidence that patients in ventricular dyssynchrony who remain symptomatic after medication might benefit from this technology. Based on evidence made available to the Medical Advisory Secretariat by a manufacturer, (8) it appears that these 6-month improvements are maintained at 12-month follow-up.
To date, however, there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of combined ICD/BiV devices in patients with chronic HF with prolonged QRS intervals.
Summary of Updated Findings Since the 2003 Review
Since the Medical Advisory Secretariat’s review in 2003 of biventricular pacemakers, 2 large RCTs have been published: COMPANION (9) and CARE-HF. (10) The characteristics of each trial are shown in Table 1. The COMPANION trial had a number of major methodological limitations compared with the CARE-HF trial.
Characteristics of the COMPANION and CARE-HF Trials*
BiV indicates biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; EF, ejection fraction; QRS, the interval representing the Q, R and S waves on an electrocardiogram; FDA, United States Food and Drug Administration.
Overall, CARE-HF showed that BiV pacing significantly improves mortality, QoL, and NYHA class in patients with severe HF and a wide QRS interval (Tables 2 and 3).
CARE-HF Results: Primary and Secondary Endpoints*
BiV indicates biventricular; NNT, number needed to treat.
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2003 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved. (10)
CARE H-F Results: NYHA Class and Quality of Life Scores*
Minnesota Living with Heart Failure scores range from 0 to 105; higher scores reflect poorer QoL.
European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions scores range from -0.594 to 1.000; 1.000 indicates fully healthy; 0, dead
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2005 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved.(10)
GRADE Quality of Evidence
The quality of these 3 trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria, (12) (Table 4).
Quality refers to criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding, and follow-up.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is an important unexplained inconsistency in the results, confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect, and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker, or have more comorbid conditions than do the people in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, (12) the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
High: Further research is very unlikely to change our confidence on the estimate of effect.
Moderate: Further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.
Low: Further research is very likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate.
Very low: Any estimate of effect is very uncertain.
Quality of Evidence: CARE-HF and COMPANION
Overall, there is evidence that BiV pacemakers are effective for improving mortality, QoL, and functional status in patients with NYHA class III/IV HF, an EF less than 0.35, a QRS interval greater than 120 ms, who are refractory to drug therapy.
As per the GRADE Working Group, recommendations considered the following 4 main factors:
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome
The quality of the evidence (Table 4)
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 5 shows the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For BiV pacing, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is moderate: the quality of the evidence is moderate/high (because of some uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design, e.g., no blinding), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence and wide cost-effectiveness estimates (Table 5).
For the combination BiV pacing/ICD, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is weak—the quality of the evidence is low (because of uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence, high cost, and high budget impact (Table 5). There are indirect, low-quality comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combination BiV/ICD devices.
A stronger recommendation can be made for BiV pacing only compared with the combination BiV/ICD device for patients with an EF less than or equal to 0.35, and a QRS interval over or equal to 120 ms, and NYHA III/IV symptoms, and refractory to optimal medical therapy (Table 5).
There is moderate/high-quality evidence that BiV pacemakers significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
There is low-quality evidence that combined BiV/ICD devices significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
To date, there are no direct comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combined BiV/ICD devices in terms of mortality, QoL, and functional status.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation
BiV refers to biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; NNT, number needed to treat.
PMCID: PMC3382419  PMID: 23074464
25.  Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) 
Executive Summary
To assess the effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of EECP in patients with severe anginal symptoms, secondary to chronic coronary disease, who are unresponsive to exhaustive pharmacotherapy and not candidates for surgical/percutaneous revascularization procedures (e.g., angioplasty, coronary bypass surgery).
To assess the effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of EECP in patients with heart failure.
Clinical Need
Angina is a clinical syndrome characterized by discomfort in the chest, jaw, shoulder, back or arm. Angina usually occurs in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) involving ≥1 large epicardial artery. However it can also occur in people with valvular heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and uncontrolled hypertension.
Conventional approaches to restoring the balance between oxygen supply and demand focus on the disruption of the underlying disease through: drug therapy (β blockers, calcium channel blockers, nitrates, antiplatelet agents, ACE inhibitors, statins); life-style modifications (smoking cessation, weight loss); or revascularization techniques such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) or percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI). (1) Limitations of each of these approaches include: adverse drug effects, procedure-related mortality and morbidity, restenosis after PCI, and time dependent graft attrition after CABG. Furthermore, an increasing number of patients are not appropriate candidates for standard revascularization options, due to co-morbid conditions (HF, peripheral vascular disease), poor distal coronary artery targets, and patient preference. The morbidity and mortality associated with repeat surgical revascularization procedures are significantly higher, and often excludes these patients from consideration for further revascularizations. (2)
Patients with CAD who have chronic ischemic symptoms that are unresponsive to both conventional medical therapy and revascularization techniques have refractory angina pectoris. It has been estimated that greater than 100,000 patients each year in the US may be diagnosed as having this condition. (3) Patients with refractory angina have marked limitation of ordinary physical activity or are unable to perform any ordinary physical activity without discomfort (CCS functional class III/IV). Also, there must be some objective evidence of ischemia as demonstrated by exercise treadmill testing, stress imaging studies or coronary physiologic studies. (1)
Dejongste et al. (4)estimated that the prevalence of chronic refractory angina is about 100,000 patients in the United States. This would correspond to approximately 3,800 (100,000 x 3.8% [Ontario is approximately 3.8% of the population of the United States]) patients in Ontario having chronic refractory angina.
Heart Failure
Heart failure results from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to act as a pump.
A recent study (5) revealed 28,702 patients were hospitalized for first-time HF in Ontario between April 1994 and March 1997. Women comprised 51% of the cohort. Eighty-five percent were aged 65 years or older, and 58% were aged 75 years or older.
Patients with chronic HF experience shortness of breath, a limited capacity for exercise, high rates of hospitalization and rehospitalization, and die prematurely. (6) The New York Heart Association (NYHA) has provided a commonly used functional classification for the severity of HF (7):
Class I: No limitation of physical activity. No symptoms with ordinary exertion.
Class II: Slight limitations of physical activity. Ordinary activity causes symptoms.
Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Less than ordinary activity causes symptoms. Asymptomatic at rest.
Class IV: Inability to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms at rest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (7) estimates that 35% of patients with HF are in functional NYHA class I; 35% are in class II; 25%, class III; and 5%, class IV. Surveys (8) suggest that from 5% to 15% of patients with HF have persistent severe symptoms, and that the remainder of patients with HF is evenly divided between those with mild and moderately severe symptoms.
To date, the diagnosis and management of chronic HF has concentrated on patients with the clinical syndrome of HF accompanied by severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Major changes in treatment have resulted from a better understanding of the pathophysiology of HF and the results of large clinical trials. Treatment for chronic HF includes lifestyle management, drugs, cardiac surgery, or implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Despite pharmacologic advances, which include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, spironolactone, and digoxin, many patients remain symptomatic on maximally tolerated doses. (6)
The Technology
Patients are typically treated by a trained technician in a medically supervised environment for 1 hour daily for a total of 35 hours over 7 weeks. The procedure involves sequential inflation and deflation of compressible cuffs wrapped around the patient’s calves, lower thighs and upper thighs. In addition to 3 sets of cuffs, the patient has finger plethysmogram and electrocardiogram (ECG) attachments that are connected to a control and display console.
External counterpulsation was used in the United States to treat cardiogenic shock after acute myocardial infarction. (9;10) More recently, an enhanced version namely “enhanced external counterpulsation” (EECP) was introduced as a noninvasive procedure for outpatient treatment of patients with severe, uncontrollable cardiac ischemia. EECP is said to increase coronary perfusion pressure and reduce the myocardial oxygen demand. Currently, EECP is not applicable for all patients with refractory angina pectoris. For example, many patients are considered ineligible for therapy due to co-morbidities, including those with severe pulmonary vascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, phlebitis and irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure. (1)
Very recently, investigation began into EECP as an adjunctive treatment for patients with HF. Anecdotal reports suggested that EECP may benefit patients with coronary disease and left ventricular dysfunction. The safety and effectiveness of EECP in patients with symptomatic heart failure and coronary disease and its role in patients with nonischemic heart failure secondary to LV dysfunction is unclear. Furthermore, the safety and effectiveness of EECP in the different stages of HF and whether it is only for patients who are refractive to pharmacotherapy is unknown.
2003 Health Technology Assessment by the Medical Advisory Secretariat
The Medical Advisory Secretariat health technology assessment (originally published in February 2003) reported on the effectiveness of EECP for patients with angina and HF. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of EECP in patients with refractory stable CCS III/IV angina as well as insufficient evidence to support the use of EECP in patients with HF.
Review Strategy
The aim of this literature review was to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost effectiveness of EECP for the treatment of refractory stable CCS III/IV angina or HF.
The standard search strategy used by the Medical Advisory Secretariat was used. This included a search of all international health technology assessments as well as a search of the medical literature from December 2002 to March 2006.
A modification of the GRADE approach (11) was used to make judgments about the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations systematically and explicitly. GRADE provides a framework for structured reflection and can help to ensure that appropriate judgments are made. GRADE takes into account a study’s design, quality, consistency, and directness in judging the quality of evidence for each outcome. The balance between benefits and harms, quality of evidence, applicability, and the certainty of the baseline risks are considered in judgments about the strength of recommendations.
Summary of Findings
The Cochrane and INAHTA databases yielded 3 HTAs or systematic reviews on EECP treatment (Blue Cross Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Center [BCBS TEC], ECRI, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS]). A search of Medline and Embase December 2005 – March 2006 (after the literature search cutoff from the most recent HTA) was conducted using key words enhanced external counterpulsation, EECP, angina, myocardial ischemia, congestive heart failure. This search produced 1 study which met the inclusion criteria. This level 4a study was inferior in quality to the RCT which formed the basis of the 2003 Medical Advisory Secretariat recommendation.
BCBS reviewed the evidence through November 2005 to determine if EECP improves health outcomes for refractory chronic stable angina pectoris or chronic stable HF. (12) BCBS concluded that the available evidence is not sufficient to permit conclusions of the effect of EECP on health outcomes. Both controlled trials had methodologic flaws (MUST EECP and MUST EECP quality of life studies). The case series and observational studies for both indications while suggestive of a treatment benefit from EECP have shortcomings as well.
On March 20 2006, CMS posted their proposed coverage decision memorandum for external counterpulsation therapy. (13) Overall, CMS stated that the evidence is not adequate to conclude that external counterpulsation therapy is reasonable and necessary for:
Canadian Cardiovascular Society Classification (CCSC) II angina
Heart failure
NYHA class II/III stable HF symptoms with an EF≤35%
NYHA class II/III stable HF symptoms with an EF≤40%
NYHA class IV HF
Acute HF
Cardiogenic shock
Acute MI
In January 2005, ECRI (14) stated that there was insufficient evidence available to draw conclusions about the long-term effectiveness of EECP, with respect to morbidity, survival, or quality of life, for any coronary indication (refractory angina, congestive heart failure, cardiogenic shock and acute MI).
GRADE Quality of the Studies
According to the GRADE Working Group criteria, the quality of the trials was examined (Table 1). (11)
Quality refers to the criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding and followup.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is important unexplained inconsistency in the results, our confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker or have more comorbidity than those in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence. (11)
GRADE Quality of Studies
Economic Analysis - Literature Review
No economic analysis of EECP was identified in the published literature.
Estimated Prevalence of Angina in Ontario
3,800 patients with chronic refractory angina:
The number of patients with chronic refractory angina in the US is estimated to be approximately 100,000 (4), this corresponds to about 3,800 patients in Ontario (3.8% × 100,000) with refractory angina.
3,800 patients × $7,000 Cdn (approximate cost for a full course of therapy) ~ $26.6M Cdn.
Estimated Prevalence of Heart Failure in Ontario
23,700 patients EF ≤ 0.35:
This estimate is from an expert (personal communication) at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), where they examined a sample of echocardiography studies drawn from a diagnostic lab in 2001. They found that the prevalence of EF ≤ 0.35 was 8.3%, and if generalized to all patients undergoing echocardiography, there would be 23,700 patients.
23,700 patients with EF ≤35% × $7,000 Cdn ~ $166 M Cdn.
There is insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness and safety of EECP treatment for patients with refractory stable CCS III-IV angina or HF.
As per the GRADE Working Group, overall recommendations consider 4 main factors. (11)
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates and the relative value placed on the outcome.
The quality of the evidence.
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise.
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of healthcare alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. (11) Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 2 is the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For angina and heart failure, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendations is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to a budget impact of approximately $26.6 M Cdn or $166 M Cdn respectively while the cost-effectiveness of EECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation (Including Uncertainty)
PMCID: PMC3379533  PMID: 23074496

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