Saturday, February 03, 2007

What's wrong with this statement?

"Electric stimulation hastens recovery from dysphagia in patients with Polymyositis thereby reducing morbidity and mortality, and improving quality of life."

Sounds authoritative, right?

But here we have yet another instance of some members of the VitalStim camp not understanding (or perhaps, disregarding) basic research principles.

This statement comes from an abstract recently posted on the VitalStim website. This abstract is listed as a "peer-reviewed poster presentation" on the online version of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The abstract is entitled "Effect of Electric Stimulation on Swallow Function in Patient with Polymyositis: A Case Report." It describes a case study of a 62-year-old male with Polymyositis who was treated with VitalStim.

So the problem with the statement above?

You cannot make sweeping statements about the value and efficacy of a particular intervention in an entire patient population based on a SINGLE CASE.

Nor can you say the "electric stimulation accounted for earlier and quicker recovery from dysphagia in this subject," as is stated elsewhere in the abstract, when you have nothing to compare the recovery time to!

C'mon people, this is Research 101. Or really, just Logic 101.

Case studies are a good thing -- we can certainly use more of these in our (fairly sparse) literature on swallowing disorders. But we need to be cautious and realize that their results do not necessarily hold true for every similar case.

You would think that some of the "peers" doing the peer-reviewing would have caught that.


Blogger Sarah said...

I'm glad you caught it! I've read many articles that make sweeping statements following a case study. Apraxia of speech articles spring to mind.

Also, welcome back to blog-land.

6:05 AM  

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