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Selection bias in clinical stroke trials depending on ability to consent


Hotter, Benjamin; Ulm, Lena; Hoffmann, Sarah; Katan, Mira; Montaner, Joan; Bustamante, Alejandro; Meisel, Andreas (2017). Selection bias in clinical stroke trials depending on ability to consent. BMC Neurology, 17:206.

Abstract

BACKGROUND Clinical trials are the hallmark of evidence-based medicine, but recruitment is often challenging, especially in stroke trials investigating patients not being able to give informed consent. In some nations, ethics committees will not approve of inclusion in a clinical study via consent of a legal representative. The ethical dilemma of including or excluding those patients has not been properly addressed, as there is little data on the effect of stroke characteristics on the ability to give informed consent.
METHODS To examine differences between patients able and unable to consent at inclusion to an acute stroke trial, we conducted a post-hoc analysis of monitoring records from a multicentric interventional trial. These records listed patients who gave informed consent by themselves and those who needed a legal representative to do so. This exemplary STRAWINSKI trial aimed at improving stroke outcome by biomarker-guided antibiotic treatment of stroke associated pneumonia and included patients within 40 h after stroke onset, suffering from MCA infarctions with an NIHSS score > 9 at admission. Standard descriptive and associative statistics were calculated to compare baseline characteristics and outcome measures between patients who were able to consent and those who were not.
RESULTS We identified the person giving consent in 228 out of 229 subjects. Patients with inability to consent were older (p < 0.01), suffered from more left-hemispheric (p < 0.01) and more severe strokes (NIHSS, p < 0.01), were more likely to die during hospitalisation (p < 0.01) or have unfavourable outcome at discharge (mRS, p < 0.01), to develop fever (p < 0.01) and tended to be more susceptible to infections (p = 0.06) during the acute course of the disorder.
CONCLUSIONS Demographics, stroke characteristics and outcomes significantly affect stroke patients in their ability to consent. Where selection criteria and primary outcome measures of a trial are significantly affected by ability to consent, excluding patients unable to consent might be unethical.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

URL http://www.clinicaltrials.gov . Unique identifier: NCT01264549 .

Abstract

BACKGROUND Clinical trials are the hallmark of evidence-based medicine, but recruitment is often challenging, especially in stroke trials investigating patients not being able to give informed consent. In some nations, ethics committees will not approve of inclusion in a clinical study via consent of a legal representative. The ethical dilemma of including or excluding those patients has not been properly addressed, as there is little data on the effect of stroke characteristics on the ability to give informed consent.
METHODS To examine differences between patients able and unable to consent at inclusion to an acute stroke trial, we conducted a post-hoc analysis of monitoring records from a multicentric interventional trial. These records listed patients who gave informed consent by themselves and those who needed a legal representative to do so. This exemplary STRAWINSKI trial aimed at improving stroke outcome by biomarker-guided antibiotic treatment of stroke associated pneumonia and included patients within 40 h after stroke onset, suffering from MCA infarctions with an NIHSS score > 9 at admission. Standard descriptive and associative statistics were calculated to compare baseline characteristics and outcome measures between patients who were able to consent and those who were not.
RESULTS We identified the person giving consent in 228 out of 229 subjects. Patients with inability to consent were older (p < 0.01), suffered from more left-hemispheric (p < 0.01) and more severe strokes (NIHSS, p < 0.01), were more likely to die during hospitalisation (p < 0.01) or have unfavourable outcome at discharge (mRS, p < 0.01), to develop fever (p < 0.01) and tended to be more susceptible to infections (p = 0.06) during the acute course of the disorder.
CONCLUSIONS Demographics, stroke characteristics and outcomes significantly affect stroke patients in their ability to consent. Where selection criteria and primary outcome measures of a trial are significantly affected by ability to consent, excluding patients unable to consent might be unethical.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

URL http://www.clinicaltrials.gov . Unique identifier: NCT01264549 .

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:4 December 2017
Deposited On:11 Feb 2019 08:15
Last Modified:11 Feb 2019 19:26
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1471-2377
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12883-017-0989-9
PubMed ID:29202730

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