Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Somatization Disorder

From today's New York Times:

Doctors Give Hope to Patients With Long Histories of Unexplained Symptoms
22 August 2006

People with a long history of medically unexplained symptoms — aches, pains, fatigue, dizziness and other complaints for which doctors can find no physical cause — might finally find relief.

Two new studies by researchers who specialize in the baffling condition called somatization syndrome, estimated to affect up to 3 percent of adults, suggest that the quest for a physical explanation may take on a destructive life of its own. Instead, those with the syndrome should focus on practical strategies to regain normal function and relieve symptoms, the researchers say.

One study, by German scientists, sought to explain why the doctors’ reassurances were generally ineffective with such patients. The researchers played taped comments by a doctor about a hypothetical patient for two groups of participants, people who had the syndrome and people who did not. Those with somatization syndrome were three times as likely to believe incorrectly that in the course of the comments the doctor had said the symptom had a worrisome physical cause.

The findings, in the August issue of the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine, offer at least a partial explanation for why patients often go from doctor to doctor and take test after test in a fruitless search for answers: repeated reassurances are simply not being understood.

A second study, by New Jersey researchers, provides the first published evidence of an effective clinical treatment. The study, in the July 24 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, found that patients benefited from 10 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy specifically organized to help relieve their stress and increase emotional awareness and to get them to become more socially active and think differently about their symptoms.

[ ... Read the full article ... ]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Rater Training and the NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS)

Josephson SA, Hills NK, & Johnston SC (2006). NIH Stroke Scale reliability in ratings from a large sample of clinicians.. Cerebrovascular Disorders,, 22(5-6), 389-395

Objective: The NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS) is widely used in stroke clinical care and trials. Certification in its use, most commonly through rating of video vignettes, is routinely required. To investigate the reliability of the NIHSS in a representative sample of raters, we examined the results of the most frequently used certification examination. Methods: At the invitation of the National Stroke Association, we analyzed the results of all raters who completed one of two multiple patient videotaped certification examinations from 1998 to 2004. Total scores for each vignette were calculated and ratings were compared based on percentile of responses and modified kappa scores. Results: There were 7,405 unique raters with 38,148 individual NIHSS item responses; median scores for each vignette ranged from 0 to 31. Total NIHSS scores varied widely between raters; scoring for 7 of the 11 patients (64%) had a four or more point difference in NIHSS score from the 5th to 95th percentile. The aphasia (kappa = 0.60) and facial palsy (0.65) items on the test contributed most to the variance in the total NIHSS score. Nurses agreed with the most common response on scoring more frequently than physicians (p < 0.0001). Taking the certification examination multiple times did not improve agreement. Conclusions: In a large diverse sample of clinicians, inter-rater reliability for individual elements of the NIHSS on videotaped vignettes was generally good, but overall scoring was inconsistent and could impact clinical trial results. Whether additional training, modification of examination elements, or clearer definitions for scoring could improve reliability requires further study. Copyright (c) 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel.

PMID: 16888381 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Anthony H. Risser | |