Placing patients in the queue for coronary revascularization: evidence for practice variations from an expert panel process.
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A panel of 16 cardiologists and cardiac surgeons rated 438 case scenarios for the maximum acceptable delay prior to revascularization, using a scale with seven interventional time frames and two nodes for designating dubious or inappropriate cases. If consensus was defined as agreement by 12 or more panelists, only 1.4 percent of the case scenarios showed consensus on a single rating. Dividing the scale into three broad clinical categories (revascularize promptly, place on a waiting list, or no intervention), 11.4 percent of scenarios showed all 16 panelists agreeing on a single category, rising to 59.4 percent of scenarios if agreement by 12 panelists was accepted as a consensus. The mean difference between the panelists' highest and lowest urgency ratings yielded waiting time differences of two weeks for scenarios of very unstable angina, and more than three months for those with stable angina. However, in a regression model, individual panelist factors on average had less effect than clinical features such as severity and stability of angina, or stenosis of major coronary arteries. These findings strongly support the need for consensus criteria to ensure that triage practices are consistent and fair, and also suggest that widespread adoption of a standardized approach to revascularization priorities may be feasible.
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