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Concept: Hospital


Background The prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients hospitalized for syncope is not well documented, and current guidelines pay little attention to a diagnostic workup for pulmonary embolism in these patients. Methods We performed a systematic workup for pulmonary embolism in patients admitted to 11 hospitals in Italy for a first episode of syncope, regardless of whether there were alternative explanations for the syncope. The diagnosis of pulmonary embolism was ruled out in patients who had a low pretest clinical probability, which was defined according to the Wells score, in combination with a negative d-dimer assay. In all other patients, computed tomographic pulmonary angiography or ventilation-perfusion lung scanning was performed. Results A total of 560 patients (mean age, 76 years) were included in the study. A diagnosis of pulmonary embolism was ruled out in 330 of the 560 patients (58.9%) on the basis of the combination of a low pretest clinical probability of pulmonary embolism and negative d-dimer assay. Among the remaining 230 patients, pulmonary embolism was identified in 97 (42.2%). In the entire cohort, the prevalence of pulmonary embolism was 17.3% (95% confidence interval, 14.2 to 20.5). Evidence of an embolus in a main pulmonary or lobar artery or evidence of perfusion defects larger than 25% of the total area of both lungs was found in 61 patients. Pulmonary embolism was identified in 45 of the 355 patients (12.7%) who had an alternative explanation for syncope and in 52 of the 205 patients (25.4%) who did not. Conclusions Pulmonary embolism was identified in nearly one of every six patients hospitalized for a first episode of syncope. (Funded by the University of Padua; PESIT number, NCT01797289 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Lung, Hospital, Heart, Pulmonary embolism, Pulmonary artery, Human lung, Embolism


Background Thirty-day risk-standardized mortality rates after acute myocardial infarction are commonly used to evaluate and compare hospital performance. However, it is not known whether differences among hospitals in the early survival of patients with acute myocardial infarction are associated with differences in long-term survival. Methods We analyzed data from the Cooperative Cardiovascular Project, a study of Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction between 1994 and 1996 and who had 17 years of follow-up. We grouped hospitals into five strata that were based on case-mix severity. Within each case-mix stratum, we compared life expectancy among patients admitted to high-performing hospitals with life expectancy among patients admitted to low-performing hospitals. Hospital performance was defined by quintiles of 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates. Cox proportional-hazards models were used to calculate life expectancy. Results The study sample included 119,735 patients with acute myocardial infarction who were admitted to 1824 hospitals. Within each case-mix stratum, survival curves of the patients admitted to hospitals in each risk-standardized mortality rate quintile separated within the first 30 days and then remained parallel over 17 years of follow-up. Estimated life expectancy declined as hospital risk-standardized mortality rate quintile increased. On average, patients treated at high-performing hospitals lived between 0.74 and 1.14 years longer, depending on hospital case mix, than patients treated at low-performing hospitals. When 30-day survivors were examined separately, there was no significant difference in unadjusted or adjusted life expectancy across hospital risk-standardized mortality rate quintiles. Conclusions In this study, patients admitted to high-performing hospitals after acute myocardial infarction had longer life expectancies than patients treated in low-performing hospitals. This survival benefit occurred in the first 30 days and persisted over the long term. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Scientist Training Program.).

Concepts: Mortality rate, Myocardial infarction, Hospital, Life expectancy


Physicians frequently search PubMed for information to guide patient care. More recently, Google Scholar has gained popularity as another freely accessible bibliographic database.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Bibliographic databases, Reference management software


Studies finding higher mortality rates for patients admitted to hospital at weekends rely on routine administrative data to adjust for risk of death, but these data may not adequately capture severity of illness. We examined how rates of patient arrival at accident and emergency (A&E) departments by ambulance-a marker of illness severity-were associated with in-hospital mortality by day and time of attendance.

Concepts: Patient, Hospital


Background The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which is included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), applies financial penalties to hospitals that have higher-than-expected readmission rates for targeted conditions. Some policy analysts worry that reductions in readmissions are being achieved by keeping returning patients in observation units instead of formally readmitting them to the hospital. We examined the changes in readmission rates and stays in observation units over time for targeted and nontargeted conditions and assessed whether hospitals that had greater increases in observation-service use had greater reductions in readmissions. Methods We compared monthly, hospital-level rates of readmission and observation-service use within 30 days after hospital discharge among Medicare elderly beneficiaries from October 2007 through May 2015. We used an interrupted time-series model to determine when trends changed and whether changes differed between targeted and nontargeted conditions. We assessed the correlation between changes in readmission rates and use of observation services after adoption of the ACA in March 2010. Results We analyzed data from 3387 hospitals. From 2007 to 2015, readmission rates for targeted conditions declined from 21.5% to 17.8%, and rates for nontargeted conditions declined from 15.3% to 13.1%. Shortly after passage of the ACA, the readmission rate declined quickly, especially for targeted conditions, and then continued to fall at a slower rate after October 2012 for both targeted and nontargeted conditions. Stays in observation units for targeted conditions increased from 2.6% in 2007 to 4.7% in 2015, and rates for nontargeted conditions increased from 2.5% to 4.2%. Within hospitals, there was no significant association between changes in observation-unit stays and readmissions after implementation of the ACA. Conclusions Readmission trends are consistent with hospitals' responding to incentives to reduce readmissions, including the financial penalties for readmissions under the ACA. We did not find evidence that changes in observation-unit stays accounted for the decrease in readmissions.

Concepts: Patient, Hospital


Studies have found differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians, with female physicians more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines and evidence-based practice. However, whether patient outcomes differ between male and female physicians is largely unknown.

Concepts: Male, Female, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Hospital accreditation


This interactive feature presents the case of an 18-year-old woman with a history of anorexia and depression who was found near her college campus in an unresponsive state. Test your diagnostic and therapeutic skills at

Concepts: Hospital, University, Campus, Universities and colleges, Satellite campus


Background Increasing overuse of opioids in the United States may be driven in part by physician prescribing. However, the extent to which individual physicians vary in opioid prescribing and the implications of that variation for long-term opioid use and adverse outcomes in patients are unknown. Methods We performed a retrospective analysis involving Medicare beneficiaries who had an index emergency department visit in the period from 2008 through 2011 and had not received prescriptions for opioids within 6 months before that visit. After identifying the emergency physicians within a hospital who cared for the patients, we categorized the physicians as being high-intensity or low-intensity opioid prescribers according to relative quartiles of prescribing rates within the same hospital. We compared rates of long-term opioid use, defined as 6 months of days supplied, in the 12 months after a visit to the emergency department among patients treated by high-intensity or low-intensity prescribers, with adjustment for patient characteristics. Results Our sample consisted of 215,678 patients who received treatment from low-intensity prescribers and 161,951 patients who received treatment from high-intensity prescribers. Patient characteristics, including diagnoses in the emergency department, were similar in the two treatment groups. Within individual hospitals, rates of opioid prescribing varied widely between low-intensity and high-intensity prescribers (7.3% vs. 24.1%). Long-term opioid use was significantly higher among patients treated by high-intensity prescribers than among patients treated by low-intensity prescribers (adjusted odds ratio, 1.30; 95% confidence interval, 1.23 to 1.37; P<0.001); these findings were consistent across multiple sensitivity analyses. Conclusions Wide variation in rates of opioid prescribing existed among physicians practicing within the same emergency department, and rates of long-term opioid use were increased among patients who had not previously received opioids and received treatment from high-intensity opioid prescribers. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.).

Concepts: Patient, Hospital, Retrospective, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Odds ratio, Opioid, Sensitivity analysis


BackgroundScales are widely used in psychiatric assessments following self-harm. Robust evidence for their diagnostic use is lacking.AimsTo evaluate the performance of risk scales (Manchester Self-Harm Rule, ReACT Self-Harm Rule, SAD PERSONS scale, Modified SAD PERSONS scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale); and patient and clinician estimates of risk in identifying patients who repeat self-harm within 6 months.MethodA multisite prospective cohort study was conducted of adults aged 18 years and over referred to liaison psychiatry services following self-harm. Scale a priori cut-offs were evaluated using diagnostic accuracy statistics. The area under the curve (AUC) was used to determine optimal cut-offs and compare global accuracy.ResultsIn total, 483 episodes of self-harm were included in the study. The episode-based 6-month repetition rate was 30% (n = 145). Sensitivity ranged from 1% (95% CI 0-5) for the SAD PERSONS scale, to 97% (95% CI 93-99) for the Manchester Self-Harm Rule. Positive predictive values ranged from 13% (95% CI 2-47) for the Modified SAD PERSONS Scale to 47% (95% CI 41-53) for the clinician assessment of risk. The AUC ranged from 0.55 (95% CI 0.50-0.61) for the SAD PERSONS scale to 0.74 (95% CI 0.69-0.79) for the clinician global scale. The remaining scales performed significantly worse than clinician and patient estimates of risk (P<0.001).ConclusionsRisk scales following self-harm have limited clinical utility and may waste valuable resources. Most scales performed no better than clinician or patient ratings of risk. Some performed considerably worse. Positive predictive values were modest. In line with national guidelines, risk scales should not be used to determine patient management or predict self-harm.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Positive predictive value, Hospital, Psychiatry


In November 2015, a neurologist in the Boston, Massachusetts, area reported four cases of an uncommon amnestic syndrome involving acute and complete ischemia of both hippocampi, as identified by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) (1). A subsequent e-mail alert, generated by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine and sent to relevant medical specialists (including neurologists, neuroradiologists, and emergency physicians), resulted in the identification of 10 additional cases that had occurred during 2012-2016. All 14 patients (mean and median age = 35 years) had been evaluated at hospitals in eastern Massachusetts. Thirteen of the 14 patients underwent routine clinical toxicology screening at the time of initial evaluation; eight tested positive for opioids, two for cocaine, and two for benzodiazepines. Apart from sporadic cases (2-6), this combination of clinical and imaging findings has been reported rarely. The apparent temporospatial clustering, relatively young age at onset (19-52 years), and associated substance use among these patients should stimulate further case identification to determine whether these observations represent an emerging syndrome related to substance use or other causes (e.g., a toxic exposure).

Concepts: Medicine, Brain, Hospital, Medical imaging, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Physician, Magnetic resonance imaging, Boston