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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Aug;40(7):587-91.

Variation in severity assessment and initial mesalamine dose selection for ulcerative colitis in community practice.

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Gastrointestinal Unit and MGH Crohn's and Colitis Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.



Ulcerative colitis treatment is based largely on anatomic extent of inflammation and severity. Clinical severity is designated by the terms mild, moderate, or severe. The aims of this study are to assess consistency between: (1) community physicians and established treatment guidelines in their respective operational definitions of severity and (2) clinical severity ratings and resulting treatment.


Medical records of 411 patients who were successfully treated with mesalamine delayed release tablets without requiring steroids were reviewed. Data recorded included the prescribed dose of mesalamine, clinical symptoms, and physician's global assessment (PGA).


Physicians were moderately consistent with the American College of Gastroenterology Guidelines in their assignments of PGA (kappa=0.57, P<0.001). An alternative decision rule, which deviated from the guidelines by placing a higher proportion of patients in the mild category, yielded a significantly higher kappa of 0.69 (P<0.001). The associations between severity measures and mesalamine dose yielded tau statistics of 0.13, 0.16, and 0.14 (all P<0.001), respectively for PGA, number of stools per day and percentage of stools with blood.


Ulcerative colitis treatment quality may be enhanced by promoting a more consistent terminology for disease severity and reducing the unexplained variation in treatment dosing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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