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1.  Indicating spinal joint mobilisations or manipulations in patients with neck or low-back pain: protocol of an inter-examiner reliability study among manual therapists 
Background
Manual spinal joint mobilisations and manipulations are widely used treatments in patients with neck and low-back pain. Inter-examiner reliability of passive intervertebral motion assessment of the cervical and lumbar spine, perceived as important for indicating these interventions, is poor within a univariable approach. The diagnostic process as a whole in daily practice in manual therapy has a multivariable character, however, in which the use and interpretation of passive intervertebral motion assessment depend on earlier results from the diagnostic process. To date, the inter-examiner reliability among manual therapists of a multivariable diagnostic decision-making process in patients with neck or low-back pain is unknown.
Methods
This study will be conducted as a repeated-measures design in which 14 pairs of manual therapists independently examine a consecutive series of a planned total of 165 patients with neck or low-back pain presenting in primary care physiotherapy. Primary outcome measure is therapists’ decision about whether or not manual spinal joint mobilisations or manipulations, or both, are indicated in each patient, alone or as part of a multimodal treatment. Therapists will largely be free to conduct the full diagnostic process based on their formulated examination objectives. For each pair of therapists, 2×2 tables will be constructed and reliability for the dichotomous decision will be expressed using Cohen’s kappa. In addition, observed agreement, prevalence of positive decisions, prevalence index, bias index, and specific agreement in positive and negative decisions will be calculated. Univariable logistic regression analysis of concordant decisions will be performed to explore which demographic, professional, or clinical factors contributed to reliability.
Discussion
This study will provide an estimate of the inter-examiner reliability among manual therapists of indicating spinal joint mobilisations or manipulations in patients with neck or low-back pain based on a multivariable diagnostic reasoning and decision-making process, as opposed to reliability of individual tests. As such, it is proposed as an initial step toward the development of an alternative approach to current classification systems and prediction rules for identifying those patients with spinal disorders that may show a better response to manual therapy which can be incorporated in randomised clinical trials. Potential methodological limitations of this study are discussed.
doi:10.1186/2045-709X-22-22
PMCID: PMC4074830  PMID: 24982754
Manual therapy; Motion assessment; Diagnostics; Decision-making; Reliability; Clinical reasoning; Neck pain; Back pain
2.  The influence of medical testing on patients’ health: an overview from the gynecologists’ perspective 
Background
A medical tests may influence the health of patients by guiding clinical decisions, such as treatment in case of a positive test result. However, a medical test can influence the health of patients through other mechanisms as well, like giving reassurance. To make a clinical recommendation about a medical test, we should be aware of the full range of effects of that test on patients. This requires an understanding of the range of effects that medical testing can have on patients. This study evaluates the mechanisms through which medical testing can influence patients’ health, other than the effect on clinical management, from a gynecologist’s perspective.
Methods
A qualitative study in which explorative focus groups were conducted with gynecologists, gynecological residents and gynecological M.D. researchers (n = 43). Discussions were transcribed verbatim. Transcriptions were coded inductively and analyzed by three researchers.
Results
All participants contributed various clinical examples in which medical testing had influenced patients’ health. Clinical examples illustrated that testing, in itself or in interaction with contextual factors, may provoke a wide range of effects on patients. Our data showed that testing can influence the doctor’s perceptions of the patients’ appraisal of their illness, their perceived control, or the doctor-patient relationship. This may lead to changes in psychological, behavioral, and/or medical outcomes, both favorably or unfavorably. The data were used to construct a conceptual framework of effects of medical testing on patients.
Conclusions
Besides supporting clinical decision making, medical testing may have favorable or unfavorable effects on patients’ health though several mechanisms.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-117
PMCID: PMC3842635  PMID: 24106969
Test evaluation; Patient outcomes; Diagnostic test; Methodology; Qualitative research
3.  Guidelines for guideline developers: a systematic review of grading systems for medical tests 
Background
A variety of systems have been developed to grade evidence and develop recommendations based on the available evidence. However, development of guidelines for medical tests is especially challenging given the typical indirectness of the evidence; direct evidence of the effects of testing on patient important outcomes is usually absent. We compared grading systems for medical tests on how they use evidence in guideline development.
Methods
We used a systematic strategy to look for grading systems specific to medical tests in PubMed, professional guideline websites, via personal correspondence, and handsearching back references of key articles. Using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation (AGREE) instrument as a starting point, we defined two sets of characteristics to describe these systems: methodological and process ones. Methodological characteristics are features relating to how evidence is gathered, appraised, and used in recommendations. Process characteristics are those relating to the guideline development process. Data were extracted in duplicate and differences resolved through discussion.
Results
Twelve grading systems could be included. All varied in the degree to which methodological and process characteristics were addressed. Having a clinical scenario, identifying the care pathway and/or developing an analytical framework, having explicit criteria for appraising and linking indirect evidence, and having explicit methodologies for translating evidence into recommendations were least frequently addressed. Five systems at most addressed these, to varying degrees of explicitness and completeness. Process wise, features most frequently addressed included involvement of relevant professional groups (8/12), external peer review of completed guidelines (9/12), and recommendations on methods for dissemination (8/12). Characteristics least often addressed were whether the system was piloted (3/12) and funder information (3/12).
Conclusions
Five systems for grading evidence about medical tests in guideline development addressed to differing degrees of explicitness the need for and appraisal of different bodies of evidence, the linking of such evidence, and its translation into recommendations. At present, no one system addressed the full complexity of gathering, assessing and linking different bodies of evidence.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-78
PMCID: PMC3716938  PMID: 23842037
Grading systems; Quality of evidence; Diagnostic; Medical tests; Grade; Guideline development
4.  Improving the implementation of tailored expectant management in subfertile couples: protocol for a cluster randomized trial 
Background
Prognostic models in reproductive medicine can help to identify subfertile couples who would benefit from fertility treatment. Expectant management in couples with a good chance of natural conception, i.e., tailored expectant management (TEM), prevents unnecessary treatment and is therefore recommended in international fertility guidelines. However, current implementation is not optimal, leaving room for improvement. Based on barriers and facilitators for TEM that were recently identified among professionals and subfertile couples, we have developed a multifaceted implementation strategy. The goal of this study is to assess the effects of this implementation strategy on the guideline adherence on TEM.
Methods/design
In a cluster randomized trial, 25 clinics and their allied practitioners units will be randomized between the multifaceted implementation strategy and care as usual. Randomization will be stratified for in vitro fertilization (IVF) facilities (full licensed, intermediate/no IVF facilities). The effect of the implementation strategy, i.e., the percentage guideline adherence on TEM, will be evaluated by pre- and post-randomization data collection. Furthermore, there will be a process and cost evaluation of the strategy. The implementation strategy will focus on subfertile couples and their care providers i.e., general practitioners (GPs), fertility doctors, and gynecologists. The implementation strategy addresses three levels: patient level: education materials in the form of a patient information leaflet and a website; professional level: audit and feedback, educational outreach visit, communication training, and access to a digital version of the prognostic model of Hunault on a website; organizational level: providing a protocol based on the guideline. The primary outcome will be the percentage guideline adherence on TEM. Additional outcome measures will be treatment-, patient-, and process-related outcome measures.
Discussion
This study will provide evidence about the effectiveness and costs of a multifaceted implementation strategy to improve guideline adherence on TEM.
Trial registration
http://www.trialregister.nlNTR3405. This study is sponsored by ZonMW.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-53
PMCID: PMC3680105  PMID: 23688282
5.  Optimizing imaging in suspected appendicitis (OPTIMAP-study): A multicenter diagnostic accuracy study of MRI in patients with suspected acute appendicitis. Study Protocol 
Background
In patients with clinically suspected appendicitis, imaging is needed to substantiate the clinical diagnosis. Imaging accuracy of ultrasonography (US) is suboptimal, while the most accurate technique (CT) is associated with cancer related deaths through exposure to ionizing radiation. MRI is a potential replacement, without associated ionizing radiation and no need for contrast medium administration. If MRI is proven to be sufficiently accurate, it could be introduced in the diagnostic pathway of patients with suspected appendicitis, increasing diagnostic accuracy and improving clinical outcomes, without the risk of radiation induced cancer or iodinated contrast medium-related drawbacks. The multicenter OPTIMAP study was designed to estimate the diagnostic accuracy of MRI in patients with suspected acute appendicitis in the general population.
Methods/Design
Eligible for this study are consecutive patients presenting with clinically suspected appendicitis at the emergency department in six centers. All patients will undergo imaging according to the Dutch guideline for acute appendicitis: initial ultrasonography in all and subsequent CT whenever US does not confirm acute appendicitis. Then MRI is performed in all patients, but the results are not used for patient management. A final diagnosis assigned by an expert panel, based on all available information including 3-months follow-up, except MRI findings, is used as the reference standard in estimating accuracy. We will calculate the sensitivity, specificity, predictive values and inter-observer agreement of MRI, and aim to include 230 patients. Patient acceptance and total imaging costs will also be evaluated.
Discussion
If MRI is found to be sufficiently accurate, it could replace CT in some or all patients. This will limit or obviate the ionizing radiation exposure associated risk of cancer induction and contrast medium induced nephropathy with CT, preventing the burden and the direct and indirect costs associated with treatment. Based on the high intrinsic contrast resolution of MRI, one might envision higher accuracy rates for MRI than for CT. If so, MRI could further decrease the number of unnecessary appendectomies and the number of missed appendicitis cases.
Trial registration
NTR2148
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-10-19
PMCID: PMC2978143  PMID: 20961412
6.  Costs of relaparotomy on-demand versus planned relaparotomy in patients with severe peritonitis: an economic evaluation within a randomized controlled trial 
Critical Care  2010;14(3):R97.
Introduction
Results of the first randomized trial comparing on-demand versus planned-relaparotomy strategy in patients with severe peritonitis (RELAP trial) indicated no clear differences in primary outcomes. We now report the full economic evaluation for this trial, including detailed methods, nonmedical costs, further differentiated cost calculations, and robustness of different assumptions in sensitivity analyses.
Methods
An economic evaluation was conducted from a societal perspective alongside a randomized controlled trial in 229 patients with severe secondary peritonitis and an acute physiology and chronic health evaluation (APACHE)-II score ≥11 from two academic and five regional teaching hospitals in the Netherlands. After the index laparotomy, patients were randomly allocated to an on-demand or a planned-relaparotomy strategy. Primary resource-utilization data were used to estimate mean total costs per patient during the index admission and after discharge until 1 year after the index operation. Overall differences in costs between the on-demand relaparotomy strategy and the planned strategy, as well as relative differences across several clinical subgroups, were evaluated.
Results
Costs were substantially lower in the on-demand group (mean, €65,768 versus €83,450 per patient in the planned group; mean absolute difference, €17,682; 95% CI, €5,062 to €29,004). Relative differences in mean total costs per patient (approximately 21%) were robust to various alternative assumptions. Planned relaparotomy consistently generated more costs across the whole range of different courses of disease (quick recovery and few resources used on one end of the spectrum; slow recovery and many resources used on the other end). This difference in costs between the two surgical strategies also did not vary significantly across several clinical subgroups.
Conclusions
The reduction in societal costs renders the on-demand strategy a more-efficient relaparotomy strategy in patients with severe peritonitis. These differences were found across the full range of healthcare resources as well as across patients with different courses of disease.
Trial Registration
ISRCTN51729393
doi:10.1186/cc9032
PMCID: PMC2911734  PMID: 20507557
7.  Study protocol: population screening for colorectal cancer by colonoscopy or CT colonography: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Gastroenterology  2010;10:47.
Background
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most prevalent type of cancer in Europe. Early detection and removal of CRC or its precursor lesions by population screening can reduce mortality. Colonoscopy and computed tomography colonography (CT colonography) are highly accurate exams and screening options that examine the entire colon. The success of screening depends on the participation rate. We designed a randomized trial to compare the uptake, yield and costs of direct colonoscopy population screening, using either a telephone consultation or a consultation at the outpatient clinic, versus CT colonography first, with colonoscopy in CT colonography positives.
Methods and design
7,500 persons between 50 and 75 years will be randomly selected from the electronic database of the municipal administration registration and will receive an invitation to participate in either CT colonography (2,500 persons) or colonoscopy (5,000 persons) screening. Those invited for colonoscopy screening will be randomized to a prior consultation either by telephone or a visit at the outpatient clinic. All CT colonography invitees will have a prior consultation by telephone. Invitees are instructed to consult their general practitioner and not to participate in screening if they have symptoms suggestive for CRC. After providing informed consent, participants will be scheduled for the screening procedure. The primary outcome measure of this study is the participation rate. Secondary outcomes are the diagnostic yield, the expected and perceived burden of the screening test, level of informed choice and cost-effectiveness of both screening methods.
Discussion
This study will provide further evidence to enable decision making in population screening for colorectal cancer.
Trial registration
Dutch trial register: NTR1829
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-10-47
PMCID: PMC2889851  PMID: 20482825
8.  Implementation of population screening for colorectal cancer by repeated fecal occult blood test in the Netherlands 
BMC Gastroenterology  2009;9:28.
Background
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most prevalent type of cancer in the world. Its prognosis is closely related to the disease stage at the time of diagnosis. Early detection of symptomless CRC or precursor lesions through population screening could reduce CRC mortality. However, screening programs are only effective if enough people are willing to participate. This study aims to asses the uptake of a second round of fecal occult blood test (FOBt) based screening and to explore factors that could potentially increase this uptake.
Methods and design
Two years after the first screening round, 10.000 average risk persons, aged 50 to 75, will again receive an invitation to participate in immunohistochemical FOBt (iFOBt) based screening. Eligible persons will be recruited through a city population database. Invitees will be randomized to receive either an iFOBt with a faeces collection paper or an iFOBt without a collection paper. The iFOBts will be analyzed in a specialized laboratory at the Academic Medical Centre. Positive iFOBts will be followed by a consultation at our outpatient clinic and, in the absence of contra-indications and after informed consent, by a colonoscopy. The primary outcome measure is the participation rate. Secondary outcome measures are the effect of the addition of a collection paper on the participation rate, reasons for participation and non-participation, measures of informed choice and psychological consequences of screening and measures of psychological and physical burden associated with the iFOBt and the colonoscopy. Another secondary outcome measure is the diagnostic yield of the program.
Discussion
In order to implement population screening for colorectal cancer in the Netherlands, information is needed on the uptake of repeated rounds of FOBt-based screening and on factors that could potentially increase this uptake in the future since effectiveness of such a program depends on the willingness of persons to participate. This study will provide information on the actual uptake and perception of a second round of iFOBt-based screening. The results of this study will contribute to the future implementation of a national colorectal screening program in the Netherlands.
Trial registration
Dutch Trial register: NTR1327
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-28
PMCID: PMC2680893  PMID: 19393087
9.  Individual patient data meta-analysis of diagnostic and prognostic studies in obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive medicine 
Background
In clinical practice a diagnosis is based on a combination of clinical history, physical examination and additional diagnostic tests. At present, studies on diagnostic research often report the accuracy of tests without taking into account the information already known from history and examination. Due to this lack of information, together with variations in design and quality of studies, conventional meta-analyses based on these studies will not show the accuracy of the tests in real practice. By using individual patient data (IPD) to perform meta-analyses, the accuracy of tests can be assessed in relation to other patient characteristics and allows the development or evaluation of diagnostic algorithms for individual patients.
In this study we will examine these potential benefits in four clinical diagnostic problems in the field of gynaecology, obstetrics and reproductive medicine.
Methods/design
Based on earlier systematic reviews for each of the four clinical problems, studies are considered for inclusion. The first authors of the included studies will be invited to participate and share their original data. After assessment of validity and completeness the acquired datasets are merged. Based on these data, a series of analyses will be performed, including a systematic comparison of the results of the IPD meta-analysis with those of a conventional meta-analysis, development of multivariable models for clinical history alone and for the combination of history, physical examination and relevant diagnostic tests and development of clinical prediction rules for the individual patients. These will be made accessible for clinicians.
Discussion
The use of IPD meta-analysis will allow evaluating accuracy of diagnostic tests in relation to other relevant information. Ultimately, this could increase the efficiency of the diagnostic work-up, e.g. by reducing the need for invasive tests and/or improving the accuracy of the diagnostic workup. This study will assess whether these benefits of IPD meta-analysis over conventional meta-analysis can be exploited and will provide a framework for future IPD meta-analyses in diagnostic and prognostic research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-22
PMCID: PMC2667527  PMID: 19327146
10.  Laparoscopic ileocolic resection versus infliximab treatment of distal ileitis in Crohn's disease: a randomized multicenter trial (LIR!C-trial) 
BMC Surgery  2008;8:15.
Background
With the availability of infliximab, nowadays recurrent Crohn's disease, defined as disease refractory to immunomodulatory agents that has been treated with steroids, is generally treated with infliximab. Infliximab is an effective but expensive treatment and once started it is unclear when therapy can be discontinued. Surgical resection has been the golden standard in recurrent Crohn's disease. Laparoscopic ileocolic resection proved to be safe and is characterized by a quick symptom reduction.
The objective of this study is to compare infliximab treatment with laparoscopic ileocolic resection in patients with recurrent Crohn's disease of the distal ileum with respect to quality of life and costs.
Methods/design
The study is designed as a multicenter randomized clinical trial including patients with Crohn's disease located in the terminal ileum that require infliximab treatment following recent consensus statements on inflammatory bowel disease treatment: moderate to severe disease activity in patients that fail to respond to steroid therapy or immunomodulatory therapy. Patients will be randomized to receive either infliximab or undergo a laparoscopic ileocolic resection. Primary outcomes are quality of life and costs. Secondary outcomes are hospital stay, early and late morbidity, sick leave and surgical recurrence. In order to detect an effect size of 0.5 on the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire at a 5% two sided significance level with a power of 80%, a sample size of 65 patients per treatment group can be calculated. An economic evaluation will be performed by assessing the marginal direct medical, non-medical and time costs and the costs per Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) will be calculated. For both treatment strategies a cost-utility ratio will be calculated. Patients will be included from December 2007.
Discussion
The LIR!C-trial is a randomized multicenter trial that will provide evidence whether infliximab treatment or surgery is the best treatment for recurrent distal ileitis in Crohn's disease.
Trial registration
Nederlands Trial Register NTR1150
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-8-15
PMCID: PMC2533646  PMID: 18721465
11.  An evaluation of a Shockroom located CT scanner: a randomized study of early assessment by CT scanning in trauma patients in the bi-located trauma center North-West Netherlands (REACT trial) 
Background
Trauma is a major source of morbidity and mortality, especially in people below the age of 50 years. For the evaluation of trauma patients CT scanning has gained wide acceptance in and provides detailed information on location and severity of injuries. However, CT scanning is frequently time consuming due to logistical (location of CT scanner elsewhere in the hospital) and technical issues. An innovative and unique infrastructural change has been made in the AMC in which the CT scanner is transported to the patient instead of the patient to the CT scanner. As a consequence, early shockroom CT scanning provides an all-inclusive multifocal diagnostic modality that can detect (potentially life-threatening) injuries in an earlier stage, so that therapy can be directed based on these findings.
Methods/design
The REACT-trial is a prospective, randomized trial, comparing two Dutch level-1 trauma centers, respectively the VUmc and AMC, with the only difference being the location of the CT scanner (respectively in the Radiology Department and in the shockroom). All trauma patients that are transported to the AMC or VUmc shockroom according to the current prehospital triage system are included. Patients younger than 16 years of age and patients who die during transport are excluded. Randomization will be performed prehospitally.
Study parameters are the number of days outside the hospital during the first year following the trauma (primary outcome), general health at 6 and 12 months post trauma, mortality and morbidity, and various time intervals during initial evaluation. In addition a cost-effectiveness analysis of this shockroom concept will be performed.
Regarding primary outcome it is estimated that the common standard deviation of days spent outside of the hospital during the first year following trauma is a total of 12 days. To detect an overall difference of 2 days within the first year between the two strategies, 562 patients per group are needed. (alpha 0.95 and beta 0.80).
Discussion
The REACT-trial will provide evidence on the effects of a strategy involving early shockroom CT scanning compared with a standard diagnostic imaging strategy in trauma patients on both patient outcome and operations research.
Trial registration
ISRCTN55332315
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-8-10
PMCID: PMC2532999  PMID: 18721455
12.  NEOadjuvant therapy monitoring with PET and CT in Esophageal Cancer (NEOPEC-trial) 
Background
Surgical resection is the preferred treatment of potentially curable esophageal cancer. To improve long term patient outcome, many institutes apply neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy. In a large proportion of patients no response to chemoradiotherapy is achieved. These patients suffer from toxic and ineffective neoadjuvant treatment, while appropriate surgical therapy is delayed. For this reason a diagnostic test that allows for accurate prediction of tumor response early during chemoradiotherapy is of crucial importance. CT-scan and endoscopic ultrasound have limited accuracy in predicting histopathologic tumor response. Data suggest that metabolic changes in tumor tissue as measured by FDG-PET predict response better. This study aims to compare FDG-PET and CT-scan for the early prediction of non-response to preoperative chemoradiotherapy in patients with potentially curable esophageal cancer.
Methods/design
Prognostic accuracy study, embedded in a randomized multicenter Dutch trial comparing neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy for 5 weeks followed by surgery versus surgery alone for esophageal cancer. This prognostic accuracy study is performed only in the neoadjuvant arm of the randomized trial. In 6 centers, 150 consecutive patients will be included over a 3 year period. FDG-PET and CT-scan will be performed before and 2 weeks after the start of the chemoradiotherapy. All patients complete the 5 weeks regimen of neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy, regardless the test results. Pathological examination of the surgical resection specimen will be used as reference standard. Responders are defined as patients with < 10% viable residual tumor cells (Mandard-score).
Difference in accuracy (area under ROC curve) and negative predictive value between FDG-PET and CT-scan are primary endpoints. Furthermore, an economic evaluation will be performed, comparing survival and costs associated with the use of FDG-PET (or CT-scan) to predict tumor response with survival and costs of neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy without prediction of response (reference strategy).
Discussion
The NEOPEC-trial could be the first sufficiently powered study that helps justify implementation of FDG-PET for response-monitoring in patients with esophageal cancer in clinical practice.
Trial registration
ISRCTN45750457
doi:10.1186/1756-6649-8-3
PMCID: PMC3301128  PMID: 18671847
13.  The Anal Fistula Plug versus the mucosal advancement flap for the treatment of Anorectal Fistula (PLUG trial) 
BMC Surgery  2008;8:11.
Background
Low transsphincteric fistulas less than 1/3 of the sphincter complex are easy to treat by fistulotomy with a high success rate. High transsphincteric fistulas remain a surgical challenge. Various surgical procedures are available, but recurrence rates of these techniques are disappointingly high. The mucosal flap advancement is considered the gold standard for the treatment of high perianal fistula of cryptoglandular origin by most colorectal surgeons. In the literature a recurrence rate between 0 and 63% is reported for the mucosal flap advancement. Recently Armstrong and colleagues reported on a new biologic anal fistula plug, a bioabsorbable xenograft made of lyophilized porcine intestinal submucosa. Their prospective series of 15 patients with high perianal fistula treated with the anal fistula plug showed promising results.
The anal fistula plug trial is designed to compare the anal fistula plug with the mucosal flap advancement in the treatment of high perianal fistula in terms of success rate, continence, postoperative pain, and quality of life.
Methods/design
The PLUG trial is a randomized controlled multicenter trial. Sixty patients with high perianal fistulas of cryptoglandular origin will be randomized to either the fistula plug or the mucosal advancement flap. Study parameters will be anorectal fistula closure-rate, continence, post-operative pain, and quality of life. Patients will be followed-up at two weeks, four weeks, and 16 weeks. At the final follow-up closure rate is determined by clinical examination by a surgeon blinded for the intervention.
Discussion
Before broadly implementing the anal fistula plug results of randomized trials using the plug should be awaited. This randomized controlled trial comparing the anal fistula plug and the mucosal advancement flap should provide evidence regarding the effectiveness of the anal fistula plug in the treatment of high perianal fistulas.
Trial registration
ISRCTN: 97376902
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-8-11
PMCID: PMC2467399  PMID: 18573198
14.  Patients’ perception of diagnostic tests in the preoperative assessment of esophageal cancer 
Objective
Defining an optimal staging strategy requires an evaluation of the effectiveness and costs of diagnostic tests and may include the burden of these tests for patients. This study evaluated the burden of cervical ultrasonography (US), endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS), computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) in patients with esophageal carcinoma (EC).
Methods
Consenting consecutive patients underwent a standard preoperative work-up. Burden of testing was evaluated with a self-report questionnaire addressing anxiety, embarrassment, and discomfort, each measured on a 1(none) to 5 (extreme) point-scale. An overall burden score was calculated by summing the three item scores. In addition, patients were asked to rank the four tests from least to most inconvenient. Statistical analysis was performed with nonparametric tests.
Results
82 patients (67 , 15 ; mean age 64.3 yrs) participated. For most tests and most dimensions of burden, the large majority of subjects was in categories 1 and 2.With respect to anxiety, the rank order (from highest burden to lowest burden) was EUS, US, PET, and CT (average scores 1.7, 1.5, 1.4, and 1.2, respectively). For embarrassment, the rank order was EUS, PET, US, and CT (1.9, 1.5, 1.4, and 1.3 respectively). For discomfort, the rank order was EUS, PET, US and CT (2.0, 1.6, 1.4, and 1.2, respectively). And for total burden, the rank order was EUS, PET, US and CT (5.6, 4.6, 4.2, and 3.7). PET was ranked as least inconvenient by 35% of patients and as most inconvenient by 16% compared with the other tests.
Conclusion
Significant but small differences were observed in patient burden for imaging tests to evaluate EC. The perceived burden of PET was lower than that of EUS, but higher than the burden of CT. However absolute values were low for all tests and therefore patient burden will not be a key feature for the construction of an optimal staging algorithm for EC.
PMCID: PMC2770407  PMID: 19920957
esophageal carcinoma; perceived burden; cervical ultrasonography; endoscopic ultrasonograhy; computed tomography; positron emission tomography
15.  Optimization of diagnostic imaging use in patients with acute abdominal pain (OPTIMA): Design and rationale 
Background
The acute abdomen is a frequent entity at the Emergency Department (ED), which usually needs rapid and accurate diagnostic work-up. Diagnostic work-up with imaging can consist of plain X-ray, ultrasonography (US), computed tomography (CT) and even diagnostic laparoscopy. However, no evidence-based guidelines exist in current literature. The actual diagnostic work-up of a patient with acute abdominal pain presenting to the ED varies greatly between hospitals and physicians. The OPTIMA study was designed to provide the evidence base for constructing an optimal diagnostic imaging guideline for patients with acute abdominal pain at the ED.
Methods/design
Thousand consecutive patients with abdominal pain > 2 hours and < 5 days will be enrolled in this multicentre trial. After clinical history, physical and laboratory examination all patients will undergo a diagnostic imaging protocol, consisting of plain X-ray (upright chest and supine abdomen), US and CT. The reference standard will be a post hoc assignment of the final diagnosis by an expert panel. The focus of the analysis will be on the added value of the imaging modalities over history and clinical examination, relative to the incremental costs.
Discussion
This study aims to provide the evidence base for the development of a diagnostic algorithm that can act as a guideline for ED physicians to evaluate patients with acute abdominal pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-7-9
PMCID: PMC1976317  PMID: 17683592
16.  Colonic stenting as bridge to surgery versus emergency surgery for management of acute left-sided malignant colonic obstruction: a multicenter randomized trial (Stent-in 2 study) 
BMC Surgery  2007;7:12.
Background
Acute left-sided colonic obstruction is most often caused by malignancy and the surgical treatment is associated with a high mortality and morbidity rate. Moreover, these operated patients end up with a temporary or permanent stoma. Initial insertion of an enteral stent to decompress the obstructed colon, allowing for surgery to be performed electively, is gaining popularity. In uncontrolled studies stent placement before elective surgery has been suggested to decrease mortality, morbidity and number of colostomies. However stent perforation can lead to peritoneal tumor spill, changing a potentially curable disease in an incurable one. Therefore it is of paramount importance to compare the outcomes of colonic stenting followed by elective surgery with emergency surgery for the management of acute left-sided malignant colonic obstruction in a randomized multicenter fashion.
Methods/design
Patients with acute left-sided malignant colonic obstruction eligible for this study will be randomized to either emergency surgery (current standard treatment) or colonic stenting as bridge to elective surgery. Outcome measurements are effectiveness and costs of both strategies. Effectiveness will be evaluated in terms of quality of life, morbidity and mortality. Quality of life will be measured with standardized questionnaires (EORTC QLQ-C30, EORTC QLQ-CR38, EQ-5D and EQ-VAS). Morbidity is defined as every event leading to hospital admission or prolonging hospital stay. Mortality will be analyzed as total mortality as well as procedure-related mortality. The total costs of treatment will be evaluated by counting volumes and calculating unit prices. Including 120 patients on a 1:1 basis will have 80% power to detect an effect size of 0.5 on the EORTC QLQ-C30 global health scale, using a two group t-test with a 0.05 two-sided significance level. Differences in quality of life and morbidity will be analyzed using mixed-models repeated measures analysis of variance. Mortality will be compared using Kaplan-Meier curves and log-rank statistics.
Discussion
The Stent-in 2 study is a randomized controlled multicenter trial that will provide evidence whether or not colonic stenting as bridge to surgery is to be performed in patients with acute left-sided colonic obstruction.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN46462267.
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-7-12
PMCID: PMC1925059  PMID: 17608947
17.  Preoperative biliary drainage for periampullary tumors causing obstructive jaundice; DRainage vs. (direct) OPeration (DROP-trial) 
BMC Surgery  2007;7:3.
Background
Surgery in patients with obstructive jaundice caused by a periampullary (pancreas, papilla, distal bile duct) tumor is associated with a higher risk of postoperative complications than in non-jaundiced patients. Preoperative biliary drainage was introduced in an attempt to improve the general condition and thus reduce postoperative morbidity and mortality. Early studies showed a reduction in morbidity. However, more recently the focus has shifted towards the negative effects of drainage, such as an increase of infectious complications. Whether biliary drainage should always be performed in jaundiced patients remains controversial. The randomized controlled multicenter DROP-trial (DRainage vs. Operation) was conceived to compare the outcome of a 'preoperative biliary drainage strategy' (standard strategy) with that of an 'early-surgery' strategy, with respect to the incidence of severe complications (primary-outcome measure), hospital stay, number of invasive diagnostic tests, costs, and quality of life.
Methods/design
Patients with obstructive jaundice due to a periampullary tumor, eligible for exploration after staging with CT scan, and scheduled to undergo a "curative" resection, will be randomized to either "early surgical treatment" (within one week) or "preoperative biliary drainage" (for 4 weeks) and subsequent surgical treatment (standard treatment). Primary outcome measure is the percentage of severe complications up to 90 days after surgery. The sample size calculation is based on the equivalence design for the primary outcome measure. If equivalence is found, the comparison of the secondary outcomes will be essential in selecting the preferred strategy. Based on a 40% complication rate for early surgical treatment and 48% for preoperative drainage, equivalence is taken to be demonstrated if the percentage of severe complications with early surgical treatment is not more than 10% higher compared to standard treatment: preoperative biliary drainage. Accounting for a 10% dropout, 105 patients are needed in each arm resulting in a study population of 210 (alpha = 0.95, beta = 0.8).
Discussion
The DROP-trial is a randomized controlled multicenter trial that will provide evidence whether or not preoperative biliary drainage is to be performed in patients with obstructive jaundice due to a periampullary tumor.
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-7-3
PMCID: PMC1828149  PMID: 17352805
18.  Perioperative strategy in colonic surgery; LAparoscopy and/or FAst track multimodal management versus standard care (LAFA trial) 
BMC Surgery  2006;6:16.
Background
Recent developments in large bowel surgery are the introduction of laparoscopic surgery and the implementation of multimodal fast track recovery programs. Both focus on a faster recovery and shorter hospital stay.
The randomized controlled multicenter LAFA-trial (LAparoscopy and/or FAst track multimodal management versus standard care) was conceived to determine whether laparoscopic surgery, fast track perioperative care or a combination of both is to be preferred over open surgery with standard care in patients having segmental colectomy for malignant disease.
Methods/design
The LAFA-trial is a double blinded, multicenter trial with a 2 × 2 balanced factorial design. Patients eligible for segmental colectomy for malignant colorectal disease i.e. right and left colectomy and anterior resection will be randomized to either open or laparoscopic colectomy, and to either standard care or the fast track program. This factorial design produces four treatment groups; open colectomy with standard care (a), open colectomy with fast track program (b), laparoscopic colectomy with standard care (c), and laparoscopic surgery with fast track program (d). Primary outcome parameter is postoperative hospital length of stay including readmission within 30 days. Secondary outcome parameters are quality of life two and four weeks after surgery, overall hospital costs, morbidity, patient satisfaction and readmission rate.
Based on a mean postoperative hospital stay of 9 +/- 2.5 days a group size of 400 patients (100 each arm) can reliably detect a minimum difference of 1 day between the four arms (alfa = 0.95, beta = 0.8). With 100 patients in each arm a difference of 10% in subscales of the Short Form 36 (SF-36) questionnaire and social functioning can be detected.
Discussion
The LAFA-trial is a randomized controlled multicenter trial that will provide evidence on the merits of fast track perioperative care and laparoscopic colorectal surgery in patients having segmental colectomy for malignant disease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-6-16
PMCID: PMC1693570  PMID: 17134506
19.  The development of QUADAS: a tool for the quality assessment of studies of diagnostic accuracy included in systematic reviews 
Background
In the era of evidence based medicine, with systematic reviews as its cornerstone, adequate quality assessment tools should be available. There is currently a lack of a systematically developed and evaluated tool for the assessment of diagnostic accuracy studies. The aim of this project was to combine empirical evidence and expert opinion in a formal consensus method to develop a tool to be used in systematic reviews to assess the quality of primary studies of diagnostic accuracy.
Methods
We conducted a Delphi procedure to develop the quality assessment tool by refining an initial list of items. Members of the Delphi panel were experts in the area of diagnostic research. The results of three previously conducted reviews of the diagnostic literature were used to generate a list of potential items for inclusion in the tool and to provide an evidence base upon which to develop the tool.
Results
A total of nine experts in the field of diagnostics took part in the Delphi procedure. The Delphi procedure consisted of four rounds, after which agreement was reached on the items to be included in the tool which we have called QUADAS. The initial list of 28 items was reduced to fourteen items in the final tool. Items included covered patient spectrum, reference standard, disease progression bias, verification bias, review bias, clinical review bias, incorporation bias, test execution, study withdrawals, and indeterminate results. The QUADAS tool is presented together with guidelines for scoring each of the items included in the tool.
Conclusions
This project has produced an evidence based quality assessment tool to be used in systematic reviews of diagnostic accuracy studies. Further work to determine the usability and validity of the tool continues.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-3-25
PMCID: PMC305345  PMID: 14606960

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