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Decisions to treat large-vessel occlusion with endovascular therapy (EVT) or intravenous alteplase depend on how physicians weigh benefits against risks when considering patients’ comorbidities. We explored EVT/alteplase decision-making by stroke experts in the setting of comorbidity/disability.
In an international multi-disciplinary survey, experts chose treatment approaches under current resources and under assumed ideal conditions for 10 of 22 randomly assigned case scenarios. Five included comorbidities (cancer, cardiac/respiratory/renal disease, mild cognitive impairment [MCI], physical dependence). We examined scenario/respondent characteristics associated with EVT/alteplase decisions using multivariable logistic regressions.
Among 607 physicians (38 countries), EVT was chosen less often in comorbidity-related scenarios (79.6% under current resources, 82.7% assuming ideal conditions) versus six “level-1A” scenarios for which EVT/alteplase was clearly indicated by current guidelines (91.1% and 95.1%, respectively, odds ratio [OR] [current resources]: 0.38, 95% confidence interval 0.31–0.47). However, EVT was chosen more often in comorbidity-related scenarios compared to all other 17 scenarios (79.6% versus 74.4% under current resources, OR: 1.34, 1.17–1.54). Responses favoring alteplase for comorbidity-related scenarios (e.g. 75.0% under current resources) were comparable to level-1A scenarios (72.2%) and higher than all others (60.4%). No comorbidity independently diminished EVT odds when considering all scenarios. MCI and dependence carried higher alteplase odds; cancer and cardiac/respiratory/renal disease had lower odds. Being older/female carried lower EVT odds. Relevant respondent characteristics included performing more EVT cases/year (higher EVT-, lower alteplase odds), practicing in East Asia (higher EVT odds), and in interventional neuroradiology (lower alteplase odds vs neurology).
Moderate-to-severe comorbidities did not consistently deter experts from EVT, suggesting equipoise about withholding EVT based on comorbidities. However, alteplase was often foregone when respondents chose EVT. Differences in decision-making by patient age/sex merit further study.
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