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Advance consent could allow individuals at high risk of stroke to provide consent before they might become eligible for enrollment in acute stroke trials. This survey explores the acceptability of this novel technique to Canadian Research Ethics Board (REB) chairs that review acute stroke trials. Responses from 15 REB chairs showed that majority of respondents expressed comfort approving studies that adopt advance consent. There was no clear preference for advance consent over deferral of consent, although respondents expressed significant concern with broad rather than trial-specific advance consent. These findings shed light on the acceptability of advance consent to Canadian ethics regulators.
Advance consent presents a potential solution to the challenge of obtaining informed consent for participation in acute stroke trials. Clinicians in stroke prevention clinics are uniquely positioned to identify and seek consent from potential stroke trial participants. To assess the acceptability of advance consent to Canadian stroke clinic physicians, we performed an online survey. We obtained 58 respondents (response rate 35%): the vast majority (82%) expressed comfort with obtaining advance consent and 92% felt that doing so would not be a significant disruption to clinic workflow. These results support further study of advance consent for acute stroke trials.
We reviewed stroke care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic at our stroke center and provincial telestroke system. We counted referrals to our prevention clinic, code strokes, thrombolysis, endovascular thrombectomies, and activations of a provincial telestroke system from February to April of 2017–2020. In April 2020, there was 28% reduction in prevention clinic referrals, 32% reduction in code strokes, and 26% reduction in telestroke activations compared to prior years. Thrombolysis and endovascular thrombectomy rates remained constant. Fewer patients received stroke services across the spectrum from prevention, acute care to telestroke care in Ontario, Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most endovascular innovations have been introduced into clinical care by showing good outcomes in small enthusiastic case series of selected patients. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have rarely been performed, except for acute ischemic stroke, but even then most trial designs were too explanatory to inform clinical decisions. In this article, we review 2 × 2 tables and forest plots that summarize RCT results to examine methodological issues in the design and interpretation of clinical studies. Research results can apply in practice when RCTs are all-inclusive, pragmatic trials. Common problems include the following: (i) using restrictive eligibility criteria in explanatory trials, instead of including the diversity of patients in need of care, which hampers future generalizability of results; (ii) ignoring an entire line of the 2 × 2 table and excluding patients who do not meet the proposed criteria of a diagnostic test in its evaluation (perfusion studies) which renders clinical inferences misleading; (iii) ignoring an entire column of the 2 × 2 table and comparing different patients treated using the same treatment instead of different treatments in the same patients (the “wrong axis” comparisons of prognostic studies and clinical experience) which leads to unjustified treatment decisions and actions; or (iv) combining all aforementioned problems (case series and epidemiological studies). The most efficient and reliable way to improve patient outcomes, after as well as long before research results are available, is to change the way we practice: to use care trials to guide care in the presence of uncertainty.
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