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1.  Quality of life among elderly patients undergoing transcatheter or surgical aortic valve replacement– a model-based longitudinal data analysis 
Quality of life (QoL) measurements reported in observational studies are often biased, since patients who failed to improve are more likely to be unable to respond due to death or impairment. In order to observe the development of QoL in patients close to death, we analyzed a set of monthly QoL measurements for a cohort of elderly patients treated for aortic valve stenosis (AS) with special consideration of the effect of distance to death.
QoL in 169 elderly patients (age ≥ 75 years), treated either with transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR; n = 92), surgical aortic-valve replacement (n = 70), or drug-based therapy (n = 7), was evaluated using the standardized EQ-5D questionnaire. Over a two-year period, patients were consulted using monthly telephone interviews or outpatient visits, leading to a total of 2463 time points at which QoL values, New York Heart Association (NYHA) Functional Classification and their status of assistance were assessed. Furthermore, post-procedural clinical events and complications were monitored. Linear and ordered logistic regression analyses with random intercept were carried out, taking into account overall trends and distance to death.
QoL measures decreased slightly over time, were temporarily impaired at month 1 after the initial episode of hospitalization and decreased substantially at the end of life with a measurable effect starting at the sixth from last follow-up (month) before death. Many clinical complications (bleeding complications, stroke, acute kidney injury) showed an impairment of QoL measurements, but the inclusion of lagged variables demonstrated medium term (three months) QoL impairments for access site bleeding only. All other complications are associated with event-related impairments that decreased dramatically at the second and third follow-up interviews (month) after event.
Distance to death shows clear effects on QoL and should be taken into account when analyzing QoL measures in the elderly patients treated for aortic valve stenosis.
Trial registration
German Clinical Trial Register Nr. DRKS00000797
PMCID: PMC4960709  PMID: 27456092
Quality of life; EQ-5D; Transcatheter aortic valve implantation; TAVI; Transcatheter aortic valve replacement; TAVR; Aortic valve replacement; AVR
2.  Age dependence of pulmonary artery blood flow measured by 4D flow cardiovascular magnetic resonance: results of a population-based study 
It was our aim to systematically analyze pulmonary artery blood flow within different age-groups in the general population using 4D flow cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) in order to provide a context for interpreting results of future studies (e.g., in pulmonary hypertension) using this technique.
An age-stratified sample (n = 126) of the population of the city of Freiburg, Germany, underwent ECG-triggered and navigator-gated 4D flow CMR at 3 T of the pulmonary arteries and the thoracic aorta. Analysis planes were placed in the main, left, and right pulmonary artery using dedicated software. Study participants were divided into three groups (1:20–39; 2:40–59; and 3:60–80 years of age). Subsequently, pulmonary blood flow was visualized, quantified and compared between groups.
Time-to-peak of systolic antegrade flow was shorter, peak and average velocities and flow volumes were lower in older subjects. At the end of systole, retrograde flow in the main pulmonary artery was observed in all but one subject. Subsequently, a second antegrade flow peak occurred in diastole which was lower in older subjects. Age was an independent predictor of hemodynamic change after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors and body-mass-index. During systole, abnormal vortices occurred in the main pulmonary artery in four male subjects.
Comprehensive analysis of pulmonary blood flow was feasible in all subjects. We were able to detect an independent effect of ageing on pulmonary hemodynamics reflecting increased vessel stiffness and reduced pulmonary circulation. Findings of this study may be helpful for discriminating physiological from pathological flow in patients with pulmonary diseases in the future.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12968-016-0252-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4888740  PMID: 27245203
Population; 4D flow CMR; Pulmonary arteries; Pulmonary blood flow
3.  Effects of Different Analysis Strategies on Paired Associative Stimulation. A Pooled Data Analysis from Three Research Labs 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0154880.
Paired associative stimulation (PAS) is a widely used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) paradigm to non-invasively induce synaptic plasticity in the human brain in vivo. Altered PAS-induced plasticity has been demonstrated for several diseases. However, researchers are faced with a high inter- and intra-subject variability of the PAS response. Here, we pooled original data from nine PAS studies from three centers and analyzed the combined dataset of 190 healthy subjects with regard to age dependency, the role of stimulation parameters and the effect of different statistical methods. We observed no main effect of the PAS intervention over all studies (F(2;362) = 0.44; p = 0.644). The rate of subjects showing the expected increase of motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitudes was 53%. The PAS effect differed significantly between studies as shown by a significant interaction effect (F(16;362) = 1.77; p = 0.034) but post-hoc testing did not reveal significant effects after correction for multiple tests. There was a trend toward increased variability of the PAS effect in older subjects. Acquisition parameters differed across studies but without systematically influencing changes in MEP-size. The use of post/baseline quotients systematically indicated stronger PAS effects than post/baseline difference or the logarithm of the post/baseline quotient. The non-significant PAS effects across studies and a wide range of responder rates between studies indicate a high variability of this method. We were thus not able to replicate findings from a previous meta-analysis showing robust effects of PAS. No pattern emerged regarding acquisition parameters that at this point could guide future studies to reduce variability and help increase response rate. For future studies, we propose to report the responder rate and recommend the use of the logarithmized post/baseline quotient for further analyses to better address the possibility that results are driven by few extreme cases.
PMCID: PMC4856316  PMID: 27144307
4.  Cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care versus self-management in patients with musculoskeletal chest pain 
Open Heart  2016;3(1):e000334.
To assess whether primary sector healthcare in the form of chiropractic care is cost-effective compared with self-management in patients with musculoskeletal chest pain, that is, a subgroup of patients with non-specific chest pain.
Methods and results
115 adults aged 18–75 years with acute, non-specific chest pain of musculoskeletal origin were recruited from a cardiology department in Denmark. After ruling out acute coronary syndrome and receiving usual care, patients with musculoskeletal chest pain were randomised to 4 weeks of community-based chiropractic care (n=59) or to a single information session aimed at encouraging self-management as complementary to usual care (n=56). Data on resource use were obtained from Danish national registries and valued from a societal perspective. Patient cost and health-related quality-adjusted life years (QALYs; based on EuroQol five-dimension questionnaire (EQ-5D) and Short Form 36-item Health Survey (SF-36)) were compared in cost-effectiveness analyses over 12 months from baseline. Mean costs were €2183 lower for the group with chiropractic care, but not statistically significant (95% CI −4410.5 to 43.0). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio suggested that chiropractic care was cost-effective with a probability of 97%, given a threshold value of €30 000 per QALY gained. In both groups, there was an increase in the health-related quality of life, and the mean increases were similar over the 12-month evaluation period. The mean differences in QALYs between the groups were negligible.
Chiropractic care was more cost-effective than self-management. Therefore, chiropractic care can be seen as a good example of a targeted primary care approach for a subgroup of patients with non-specific chest pain.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC4860847  PMID: 27175285
5.  Using existing questionnaires in latent class analysis: should we use summary scores or single items as input? A methodological study using a cohort of patients with low back pain 
Clinical Epidemiology  2016;8:73-89.
Latent class analysis (LCA) is increasingly being used in health research, but optimal approaches to handling complex clinical data are unclear. One issue is that commonly used questionnaires are multidimensional, but expressed as summary scores. Using the example of low back pain (LBP), the aim of this study was to explore and descriptively compare the application of LCA when using questionnaire summary scores and when using single items to subgrouping of patients based on multidimensional data.
Materials and methods
Baseline data from 928 LBP patients in an observational study were classified into four health domains (psychology, pain, activity, and participation) using the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health framework. LCA was performed within each health domain using the strategies of summary-score and single-item analyses. The resulting subgroups were descriptively compared using statistical measures and clinical interpretability.
For each health domain, the preferred model solution ranged from five to seven subgroups for the summary-score strategy and seven to eight subgroups for the single-item strategy. There was considerable overlap between the results of the two strategies, indicating that they were reflecting the same underlying data structure. However, in three of the four health domains, the single-item strategy resulted in a more nuanced description, in terms of more subgroups and more distinct clinical characteristics.
In these data, application of both the summary-score strategy and the single-item strategy in the LCA subgrouping resulted in clinically interpretable subgroups, but the single-item strategy generally revealed more distinguishing characteristics. These results 1) warrant further analyses in other data sets to determine the consistency of this finding, and 2) warrant investigation in longitudinal data to test whether the finer detail provided by the single-item strategy results in improved prediction of outcomes and treatment response.
Video abstract
PMCID: PMC4853143  PMID: 27217797
classification; data mining; subgrouping; clinical interpretability; questionnaire; low back pain
6.  Combination Approaches Improve Predictive Performance of Diagnostic Rules for Mass-Spectrometry Proteomic Data 
Journal of Computational Biology  2014;21(12):898-914.
We consider a proteomic mass spectrometry case-control study for the construction of a diagnostic rule for patients' disease status allocation. We propose an approach for combining a collection of classifiers for the construction of a “combined” classification rule in order to enhance calibration and prediction ability. In a first stage this is achieved by building individual classifiers separately, each one using the entire proteomic data set. A double leave-one-out cross-validatory approach is used to estimate the class-predicted probabilities on which the combination method will be calibrated. The performance of the combination approach is examined both through a breast cancer proteomic data set and through simulation studies. Our experimental results indicate that in many circumstances gains in classification performance and predictive accuracy can be achieved.
PMCID: PMC4253302  PMID: 25360568
classification; classifier combination; clinical mass-spectrometry-based proteomics; double cross validation
7.  In-hospital resource utilization in surgical and transcatheter aortic valve replacement 
Little is known about preoperative predictors of resource utilization in the treatment of high-risk patients with severe symptomatic aortic valve stenosis. We report results from the prospective, medical-economic “TAVI Calculation of Costs Trial”.
In-hospital resource utilization was evaluated in 110 elderly patients (age ≥ 75 years) treated either with transfemoral (TF) or transapical (TA) transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI, N = 83), or surgical aortic valve replacement (AVR, N = 27). Overall, 22 patient-specific baseline parameters were tested for within-group prediction of resource use.
Baseline characteristics differed between groups and reflected the non-randomized, real-world allocation of treatment options. Overall procedural times were shortest for TAVI, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (LoS) was lowest for AVR. Length of total hospitalization since procedure (THsP) was lowest for TF-TAVI; 13.4 ± 11.4 days as compared to 15.7 ± 10.5 and 21.2 ± 15.4 days for AVR and TA-TAVI, respectively. For TAVI and AVR, EuroScore I remained the main predictor for prolonged THsP (p <0.01). Within the TAVI group, multivariate regression analyses showed that TA-TAVI was associated with a substantial increase in THsP (55 to 61 %, p <0.01). Additionally, preoperative aortic valve area (AVA) was identified as an independent predictor of prolonged THsP in TAVI patients, irrespective of risk scores (p <0.05).
Our results demonstrate significant heterogeneity in patients baseline characteristics dependent on treatment and corresponding differences in resource utilization. Prolonged ThsP is not only predicted by risk scores but also by baseline AVA, which might be useful in stratifying TAVI patients.
Trial registration
German Clinical Trial Register Nr. DRKS00000797
PMCID: PMC4619014  PMID: 26494488
Transcatheter aortic valve implantation; Aortic valve replacement; Resource utilization; Risk prediction; Cost; Length of stay; Total hospitalization since procedure
8.  Insights into the Social Structure of the PPNB Site of Kfar HaHoresh, Israel, Based on Dental Remains 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0134528.
One of the central questions of the transition from mobile hunter-gatherers to sedentary farming communities concerns the establishment of new social structures and group identities. Along with other important factors, such as territory, ideology or economy, biological relationships might have played a decisive role in defining social groups. We therefore systematically analyzed teeth and jaw remains from nine sites in the Near East dating from the Natufian to the Late PPNB as primary proxy data for the reconstruction of familial relationships. This paper presents the results of morphological analyses on the teeth of the individuals from Kfar HaHoresh, one of the investigated Pre-Pottery Neolithic B sites. Kfar HaHoresh is located in the Nazareth hills of Galilee (32°42'20'' N 35°16'28'' E), Israel. Different statistical methods were applied to our data of epigenetic traits with the aim of determining biological relationships within the community, whereby the data of the eight other sites were used as cross-references. Our comparison of the traits of all individuals from Kfar HaHoresh indicates a rather heterogeneous community, but clearly shows one cluster belonging to a quite homogenous group, suggesting close biological relations between females and sub-adults. Interestingly, none of the male individuals belongs to this cluster, although their number outweighs that of the female individuals. This might suggest matrilocal residence patterns. However, due to the incomplete preservation of the teeth along with several other uncertainties, our conclusion must be seen as preliminary. A cross-examination of the results on skeletons excavated after our investigation should also be taken into consideration.
PMCID: PMC4573520  PMID: 26376321
10.  Are Entry Criteria for Cataract Surgery Justified? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112819.
The German Ophthalmological Society (GOS) recently proposed surgical entry criteria, i.e. 300 cataract surgeries. We herein correlate the surgical hands-on experience with the risk of posterior capsule ruptures in order to assess whether this number is appropriate.
We identified all cataract operations that had been performed at the University Eye Hospital Freiburg since 1995. For each surgeon, we assigned a running number to his/her procedures in the order they had been performed. Thereafter, we excluded all combined procedures and the second eyes. We then selected the 5475 surgical reports between November 2008 and November 2012 for detailed review. We additionally classified each surgery into low- vs. high- à priori risk for posterior capsule ruptures. We fitted a multifactorial logistic regression model to assess the GOS recommendation of 300 surgeries under supervision. In the low-risk group, we additionally visualized the 'typical' learning curve by plotting the posterior capsule ruptures against the respective rank numbers.
The odds ratio for posterior capsule ruptures of 'learning-mode' (one of the respective surgeon's 300 first procedures) vs. the non-learning-mode was 3.8 (p<0.0001). By contrast, classification into the low-risk group lowered the risk of posterior capsule ruptures three fold (p<0.0001). According to the low-risk plot, the surgeons started with a complication rate of 4% and continuously improved towards 0.5% after 1500 operations. Thereafter, the rate increased again and stabilized around one percent.
The learning curve with respect to posterior capsule ruptures is surprisingly flat. The GOS entry criterion of 300 cataract procedures is therefore most likely justified. Careful selection of low-risk patients for the training surgeons may help in reducing the rate of posterior capsule ruptures during training.
PMCID: PMC4234514  PMID: 25401738
11.  Choice of Non-Inferiority (NI) Margins Does Not Protect against Degradation of Treatment Effects on an Average – An Observational Study of Registered and Published NI Trials 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103616.
NI margins have to be chosen appropriately to control the risk of degradation of treatment effects in non-inferiority (NI) trials. We aimed to study whether the current choice of NI margins protects sufficiently against a degradation of treatment effect on an average.
Study Design and Setting
NI trials reflecting current practice were assembled and for each trial, the NI margin was translated into a likelihood of degradation. The likelihood of degradation was calculated as the conditional probability of a treatment being harmful given that it is declared non-inferior in the trial, using simulation. Its distribution among the NI trials was then studied to assess the potential risk of degradation.
The median (lower/upper quartile) NI margin among 112 binary outcome NI trials corresponded to an odds ratio of 0.57(0.45, 0.66), while among 38 NI trials with continuous outcome, to a Cohen’s d of −0.42(−0.54, −0.31) and a hazard ratio of 0.82(0.73, 0.86) among 24 survival outcome NI trials. Overall, the median likelihood of degradation was 56% (45%, 62%).
Only two fifths of the current NI trials had a likelihood of degradation lower than 50%, suggesting that, in majority of the NI trials, there is no sufficient protection against degradation on an average. We suggest a third hurdle for the choice of NI margins, thus contributing a sufficient degree of protection.
PMCID: PMC4117500  PMID: 25080093
12.  Feasibility and impact of an intensified antibiotic stewardship programme targeting cephalosporin and fluoroquinolone use in a tertiary care university medical center 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:201.
Restricted use of third-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones has been linked to a reduced incidence of hospital-acquired infections with multidrug-resistant bacteria. We implemented an intensified antibiotic stewardship (ABS) programme in the medical service of a university hospital center aiming at a reduction by at least 30% in the use of these two drug classes.
The ABS programme was focused on the 300-bed medical service. Prescription of third-generation cephalosporins was discouraged, whereas the use of penicillins was encouraged. Monthly drug use density was measured in WHO-ATC defined and locally recommended daily doses (DDD and RDD) per 100 patient days, to evaluate trends before (01/2008 to 10/2011) and after starting the intervention (1/2012 to 3/2013). The effect was analysed using interrupted time-series analysis with six non-intervention departments as controls.
Following initiation of the ABS intervention, overall antibiotic use in the medical service declined (p < 0.001). There was a significant intervention-related decrease in the use of cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones (p < 0.001) outperforming the decreasing baseline trend. Trend changes observed in some of the control departments were smaller, and the difference between trend changes in the medical service and those in control departments were highly significant for overall use and cephalosporin use reductions (p < 0.001) as well as for the increasing use of penicillins (p < 0.001). Mean use density levels (in RDD per 100 patient days) dropped for cephalosporins from 16.3 to 10.3 (−37%) and for fluoroquinolones from 17.7 to 10.1 (−43%), respectively. During the same period, the use of penicillins increased (15.4 to 18.2; 18%). The changes in expenditures for antibiotics in the medical service compared to control services minus programme costs indicated initial net cost savings likely to be associated with the programme.
An intensified ABS programme targeting cephalosporin und fluoroquinolone use in the setting of a large academic hospital is feasible and effective. The intervention may serve as a model for other services and hospitals with a similar structure and baseline situation.
PMCID: PMC3999502  PMID: 24731220
Antibiotic stewardship; Interrupted time-series analysis; Cephalosporins; Fluoroquinolones
13.  Impact of availability of guidelines and active surveillance in reducing the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia in Europe and worldwide 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:199.
To analyse whether the availability of written standards for management of mechanically ventilated patients and/or the existence of a surveillance system for cases of ventilation-associated pneumonia (VAP) are positively associated with compliance with 6 well-established VAP prevention measures.
Ecological study based on responses to an online-questionnaire completed by 1730 critical care physicians. Replies were received from 77 different countries, of which the majority, i.e. 1351, came from 36 European countries.
On a cross-country level, compliance with VAP prevention measures is higher in countries with a large number of prevention standards and/or VAP surveillance systems in place at ICU level., Likewise, implementation of standards and VAP surveillance systems has a significant impact on self-reported total compliance with VAP prevention measures (both p < 0.001). Moreover, predictions of overall prevention measure compliance show the effect size of the availability of written standards and existence of surveillance system. For instance, a female physician with 10 years of experience in critical care working in a 15-bed ICU in France has a predicted baseline level of VAP prevention measure compliance of 63 per cent. This baseline level increases by 9.5 percentage points (p < 0.001) if a written clinical VAP prevention standard is available in the ICU, and by another 4 percentage points (p < 0.001) if complemented by a VAP surveillance system.
The existence of written standards for management of mechanically ventilated patients in an ICU and the availability of VAP surveillance systems have shown to be positively associated with compliance with VAP prevention measures and should be fostered on a policy level.
PMCID: PMC4021349  PMID: 24725914
Ventilation-associated pneumonia; VAP; Bundle; Guideline; Surveillance
14.  Game-Based E-Learning Is More Effective than a Conventional Instructional Method: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Third-Year Medical Students 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82328.
When compared with more traditional instructional methods, Game-based e-learning (GbEl) promises a higher motivation of learners by presenting contents in an interactive, rule-based and competitive way. Most recent systematic reviews and meta-analysis of studies on Game-based learning and GbEl in the medical professions have shown limited effects of these instructional methods.
To compare the effectiveness on the learning outcome of a Game-based e-learning (GbEl) instruction with a conventional script-based instruction in the teaching of phase contrast microscopy urinalysis under routine training conditions of undergraduate medical students.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 145 medical students in their third year of training in the Department of Urology at the University Medical Center Freiburg, Germany. 82 subjects where allocated for training with an educational adventure-game (GbEl group) and 69 subjects for conventional training with a written script-based approach (script group). Learning outcome was measured with a 34 item single choice test. Students' attitudes were collected by a questionnaire regarding fun with the training, motivation to continue the training and self-assessment of acquired knowledge.
The students in the GbEl group achieved significantly better results in the cognitive knowledge test than the students in the script group: the mean score was 28.6 for the GbEl group and 26.0 for the script group of a total of 34.0 points with a Cohen's d effect size of 0.71 (ITT analysis). Attitudes towards the recent learning experience were significantly more positive with GbEl. Students reported to have more fun while learning with the game when compared to the script-based approach.
Game-based e-learning is more effective than a script-based approach for the training of urinalysis in regard to cognitive learning outcome and has a high positive motivational impact on learning. Game-based e-learning can be used as an effective teaching method for self-instruction.
PMCID: PMC3857775  PMID: 24349257
15.  Potential role of “the compensating benefit” in claiming non-inferiority 
Trials  2013;14(Suppl 1):P12.
PMCID: PMC3980833
18.  Google Scholar as replacement for systematic literature searches: good relative recall and precision are not enough 
Recent research indicates a high recall in Google Scholar searches for systematic reviews. These reports raised high expectations of Google Scholar as a unified and easy to use search interface. However, studies on the coverage of Google Scholar rarely used the search interface in a realistic approach but instead merely checked for the existence of gold standard references. In addition, the severe limitations of the Google Search interface must be taken into consideration when comparing with professional literature retrieval tools.
The objectives of this work are to measure the relative recall and precision of searches with Google Scholar under conditions which are derived from structured search procedures conventional in scientific literature retrieval; and to provide an overview of current advantages and disadvantages of the Google Scholar search interface in scientific literature retrieval.
General and MEDLINE-specific search strategies were retrieved from 14 Cochrane systematic reviews. Cochrane systematic review search strategies were translated to Google Scholar search expression as good as possible under consideration of the original search semantics. The references of the included studies from the Cochrane reviews were checked for their inclusion in the result sets of the Google Scholar searches. Relative recall and precision were calculated.
We investigated Cochrane reviews with a number of included references between 11 and 70 with a total of 396 references. The Google Scholar searches resulted in sets between 4,320 and 67,800 and a total of 291,190 hits. The relative recall of the Google Scholar searches had a minimum of 76.2% and a maximum of 100% (7 searches). The precision of the Google Scholar searches had a minimum of 0.05% and a maximum of 0.92%. The overall relative recall for all searches was 92.9%, the overall precision was 0.13%.
The reported relative recall must be interpreted with care. It is a quality indicator of Google Scholar confined to an experimental setting which is unavailable in systematic retrieval due to the severe limitations of the Google Scholar search interface. Currently, Google Scholar does not provide necessary elements for systematic scientific literature retrieval such as tools for incremental query optimization, export of a large number of references, a visual search builder or a history function. Google Scholar is not ready as a professional searching tool for tasks where structured retrieval methodology is necessary.
PMCID: PMC3840556  PMID: 24160679
Literature search; Literature search; Methods; Literature search; Systematic; Information storage and retrieval; Google Scholar; Medline
19.  Shared decision-making in antihypertensive therapy: a cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:135.
Hypertension is one of the key factors causing cardiovascular diseases. A substantial proportion of treated hypertensive patients do not reach recommended target blood pressure values. Shared decision making (SDM) is to enhance the active role of patients. As until now there exists little information on the effects of SDM training in antihypertensive therapy, we tested the effect of an SDM training programme for general practitioners (GPs). Our hypotheses are that this SDM training (1) enhances the participation of patients and (2) leads to an enhanced decrease in blood pressure (BP) values, compared to patients receiving usual care without prior SDM training for GPs.
The study was conducted as a cluster randomised controlled trial (cRCT) with GP practices in Southwest Germany. Each GP practice included patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension and/or with relevant comorbidity. After baseline assessment (T0) GP practices were randomly allocated into an intervention and a control arm. GPs of the intervention group took part in the SDM training. GPs of the control group treated their patients as usual. The intervention was blinded to the patients. Primary endpoints on patient level were (1) change of patients’ perceived participation (SDM-Q-9) and (2) change of systolic BP (24h-mean). Secondary endpoints were changes of (1) diastolic BP (24h-mean), (2) patients’ knowledge about hypertension, (3) adherence (MARS-D), and (4) cardiovascular risk score (CVR).
In total 1357 patients from 36 general practices were screened for blood pressure control by ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM). Thereof 1120 patients remained in the study because of uncontrolled (but treated) hypertension and/or a relevant comorbidity. At T0 the intervention group involved 17 GP practices with 552 patients and the control group 19 GP practices with 568 patients. The effectiveness analysis could not demonstrate a significant or relevant effect of the SDM training on any of the endpoints.
The study hypothesis that the SDM training enhanced patients’ perceived participation and lowered their BP could not be confirmed. Further research is needed to examine the impact of patient participation on the treatment of hypertension in primary care.
Trial registration
German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS): DRKS00000125
PMCID: PMC3847233  PMID: 24024587
Hypertension; Shared decision-making; Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring; Educational training; Primary care; Family medicine; Cluster randomised controlled trial
20.  Earliest Evidence for Social Endogamy in the 9,000-Year-Old-Population of Basta, Jordan 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65649.
The transition from mobile to sedentary life was one of the greatest social challenges of the human past. Yet little is known about the impact of this fundamental change on social interactions amongst early Neolithic communities, which are best recorded in the Near East. The importance of social processes associated with these economic and ecological changes has long been underestimated. However, ethnographic observations demonstrate that generalized reciprocity – such as open access to resources and land – had to be reduced to a circumscribed group before regular farming and herding could be successfully established. Our aim was thus to investigate the role of familial relationships as one possible factor within this process of segregation as recorded directly in the skeletal remains, rather than based on hypothetical correlations such as house types and social units. Here we present the revealing results of the systematically recorded epigenetic characteristics of teeth and skulls of the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic community of Basta in Southern Jordan (Figure S1). Additionally, mobility was reconstructed via a systematic strontium (Sr) isotope analysis of tooth enamel of the Basta individuals. The frequency of congenitally missing maxillary lateral incisors in the 9,000-year-old community of Basta is exceptionally high (35.7%). Genetic studies and a worldwide comparison of the general rate of this dental anomaly in modern and historic populations show that the enhanced frequency can only be explained by close familial relationships akin to endogamy. This is supported by strontium isotope analyses of teeth, indicating a local origin of almost all investigated individuals. Yet, the accompanying archaeological finds document far-reaching economic exchange with neighboring groups and a population density hitherto unparalleled. We thus conclude that endogamy in the early Neolithic village of Basta was not due to geographic isolation or a lack of exogamous mating partners but a socio-cultural choice.
PMCID: PMC3679157  PMID: 23776517
21.  Gene Expression Signatures That Predict Outcome of Tamoxifen-Treated Estrogen Receptor-Positive, High-Risk, Primary Breast Cancer Patients: A DBCG Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54078.
Tamoxifen significantly improves outcome for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, but the 15-year recurrence rate remains 30%. The aim of this study was to identify gene profiles that accurately predicted the outcome of ER+ breast cancer patients who received adjuvant Tamoxifen mono-therapy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Post-menopausal breast cancer patients diagnosed no later than 2002, being ER+ as defined by >1% IHC staining and having a frozen tumor sample with >50% tumor content were included. Tumor samples from 108 patients treated with adjuvant Tamoxifen were analyzed for the expression of 59 genes using quantitative-PCR. End-point was clinically verified recurrence to distant organs or ipsilateral breast. Gene profiles were identified using a model building procedure based on conditional logistic regression and leave-one-out cross-validation, followed by a non-parametric bootstrap (1000x re-sampling). The optimal profiles were further examined in 5 previously-reported datasets containing similar patient populations that were either treated with Tamoxifen or left untreated (n = 623). Three gene signatures were identified, the strongest being a 2-gene combination of BCL2-CDKN1A, exhibiting an accuracy of 75% for prediction of outcome. Independent examination using 4 previously-reported microarray datasets of Tamoxifen-treated patient samples (n = 503) confirmed the potential of BCL2-CDKN1A. The predictive value was further determined by comparing the ability of the genes to predict recurrence in an additional, previously-published, cohort consisting of Tamoxifen-treated (n = 58, p = 0.015) and untreated patients (n = 62, p = 0.25).
A novel gene expression signature predictive of outcome of Tamoxifen-treated patients was identified. The validation suggests that BCL2-CDKN1A exhibit promising predictive potential.
PMCID: PMC3546921  PMID: 23342080
22.  Reproducibility of range of motion and muscle strength measurements in patients with hip osteoarthritis – an inter-rater study 
Assessment of range of motion (ROM) and muscle strength is fundamental in the clinical diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis (OA) but reproducibility of these measurements has mostly involved clinicians from secondary care and has rarely reported agreement parameters. Therefore, the primary objective of the study was to determine the inter-rater reproducibility of ROM and muscle strength measurements. Furthermore, the reliability of the overall assessment of clinical hip OA was evaluated. Reporting is in accordance with proposed guidelines for the reporting of reliability and agreement studies (GRRAS).
In a university hospital, four blinded raters independently examined patients with unilateral hip OA; two hospital orthopaedists independently examined 48 (24 men) patients and two primary care chiropractors examined 61 patients (29 men). ROM was measured in degrees (deg.) with a standard two-arm goniometer and muscle strength in Newton (N) using a hand-held dynamometer. Reproducibility is reported as agreement and reliability between paired raters of the same profession. Agreement is reported as limits of agreement (LoA) and reliability is reported with intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Reliability of the overall assessment of clinical OA is reported as weighted kappa.
Between orthopaedists, agreement for ROM ranged from LoA [-28–12 deg.] for internal rotation to [-8–13 deg.] for extension. ICC ranged between 0.53 and 0.73, highest for flexion. For muscle strength between orthopaedists, LoA ranged from [-65–47N] for external rotation to [-10 –59N] for flexion. ICC ranged between 0.52 and 0.85, highest for abduction. Between chiropractors, agreement for ROM ranged from LoA [-25–30 deg.] for internal rotation to [-13–21 deg.] for flexion. ICC ranged between 0.14 and 0.79, highest for flexion. For muscle strength between chiropractors, LoA ranged between [-80–20N] for external rotation to [-146–55N] for abduction. ICC ranged between 0.38 and 0.81, highest for flexion. Weighted kappa for the overall assessment of clinical hip OA was 0.52 between orthopaedists and 0.65 between chiropractors.
Reproducibility of goniometric and dynamometric measurements of ROM and muscle strength in patients with hip OA is poor between experienced orthopaedists and between experienced chiropractors. Orthopaedists and chiropractors can to a moderate degree differentiate between hips with or without osteoarthritis.
PMCID: PMC3565957  PMID: 23217149
Hip; Examination; Inter-observer; Reliability; Osteoarthritis; Hip
23.  Implementation of shared decision making by physician training to optimise hypertension treatment. Study protocol of a cluster-RCT 
Hypertension is one of the key factors causing cardiovascular diseases which make up the most frequent cause of death in industrialised nations. However about 60% of hypertensive patients in Germany treated with antihypertensives do not reach the recommended target blood pressure. The involvement of patients in medical decision making fulfils not only an ethical imperative but, furthermore, has the potential of higher treatment success. One concept to enhance the active role of patients is shared decision making. Until now there exists little information on the effects of shared decision making trainings for general practitioners on patient participation and on lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
In a cluster-randomised controlled trial 1800 patients receiving antihypertensives will be screened with 24 h ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in their general practitioners’ practices. Only patients who have not reached their blood pressure target (approximately 1200) will remain in the study (T1 – T3). General practitioners of the intervention group will take part in a shared decision making-training after baseline assessment (T0). General practitioners of the control group will treat their patients as usual. Primary endpoints are change of systolic blood pressure and change of patients’ perceived participation. Secondary endpoints are changes of diastolic blood pressure, knowledge, medical adherence and cardiovascular risk. Data analysis will be performed with mixed effects models.
The hypothesis underlying this study is that shared decision making, realised by a shared decision making training for general practitioners, activates patients, facilitates patients’ empowerment and contributes to a better hypertension control. This study is the first one that tests this hypothesis with a (cluster-) randomised trial and a large sample size.
Trial registration
WHO International Clinical Trials:
PMCID: PMC3467178  PMID: 22966894
Arterial hypertension; Cardiovascular diseases; Cardiovascular risk; Shared decision making; Educational training; Blood pressure control; Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring; Adherence; Primary care; Family medicine
24.  Interim analyses in diagnostic versus treatment studies: differences and similarities 
The purpose of this paper was to contrast interim analyses in (randomized controlled) treatment studies with interim analyses in paired diagnostic studies of accuracy with respect to planning and conduct. The term ‘treatment study’ refers to a (randomized) clinical trial that aims to demonstrate the superiority or noninferiority of one treatment compared with another, and the term ‘diagnostic study’ to a clinical study that compares two diagnostic procedures, using a third diagnostic procedure as the gold standard. Though interim analyses in treatment studies and paired diagnostic studies show similarities in a priori planning of timing, decision rules, and the consequences of the analyses, they differ with respect to (1) the need for sample size adjustments, (2) the possibility of early decisions without early stopping, and (3) the impact of keeping results secret. These differences are due, respectively, to certain characteristics of paired diagnostic studies: the dependence of the sample size on the agreement rate between the modalities, multiple aims of diagnostic accuracy studies, and the advantages of early unblinding of results at the individual level. We exemplified our points by using a recent investigation at our institution on the detection of bone metastases from prostate cancer in patients with histologically confirmed prostate cancer in which 99mTc-MDP whole body bone scintigraphy was compared to positron emission tomography/computed tomography with 18F-fluorocholine as tracer, using magnetic resonance imaging as a reference.
PMCID: PMC3477734  PMID: 23133821
Study design; diagnostic imaging; PET/CT; efficacy studies; accuracy studies; sample size
25.  Is there a danger of “biocreep” with non-inferiority trials? 
Trials  2011;12(Suppl 1):A29.
PMCID: PMC3287743

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