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MCS Misdiagnosed as PVS Almost Half the Time

Posted Jul 22 2009 10:35pm

In aforthcoming articleinBMC Neurology, Belgian researchers recite that "previously published studies have reported that up to43% of patients with disorders of consciousness are erroneously assigned a diagnosis of vegetative state (VS),” a condition associated with a much lower chance of recovery.

So, the Belgian researchers investigated the accuracy of this diagnosis, by comparing consensus-based diagnoses of VS and MCS to those based on a well-established standardized neurobehavioral standardized neurobehavioral rating scale. They conclude: “Standardized neurobehavioral assessment is a more sensitive means of establishing differential diagnosis in patients with disorders of consciousness when compared to diagnoses determined by clinical consensus.”

This gigantic misdiagnosis rate is troubling since so much end-of-life decision-making weight is placed on the fact that a patient is PVS. Law and public policy generally support stopping life support for PVS patients, much less so for MCS patients (e.g.Wendland(Cal.), Martin(Mich.)).

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