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Anaesth Intensive Care. 2002 Oct;30(5):633-40.

The ASA Physical Status Classification: inter-observer consistency. American Society of Anesthesiologists.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status classification system has previously been shown to be inconsistently applied by anaesthetists. One hundred and sixty questionnaires were sent out to all specialist anaesthetists in Hong Kong. Ten hypothetical patients, identical to those of a similar study undertaken 20 years ago, each with different types and degrees ofphysical disability were described. Respondents were asked about their country of training and type of anaesthetic practice and to assign an ASA classification status for each patient. Ninety-seven questionnaires were returned (61%) after two mailings. Agreement for each patient within groups, between groups and overall comparisons were made. Percentage of agreement was between 31 to 85%. Overall correlation was only fair in all groups (Kappa indices: 0.21-0.4). We found that the current pattern of inter-observer inconsistency of classification was similar to that 20 years ago and exaggerated between locally and overseas trained specialists (P<0.05). The validity of the ASA system, its usefulness and the need for a new, more precise scoring system is discussed.

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