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Am J Cardiol. 1994 May 1;73(12):887-91.

Assessing diagnostic criteria for active infective endocarditis.

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Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104-6095.


A study was performed to describe agreement among experts on their classification of patients, in the absence of information concerning risk factors, as to the presence of infective endocarditis (IE). The study also assessed the clinical characteristics that enabled the experts to determine that a patient had IE. All patients with a discharge diagnosis of IE were identified prospectively from 54 hospitals in the Delaware Valley over a 3-year period. Patients were part of a case-control study of risk factors for IE. Three infectious disease experts independently reviewed abstracted hospital records and classified each of 151 eligible patients as a definite, probable or possible case, or a probable noncase, both based on clinical judgement and using a modified standard definition. Experts were more likely to classify a patient as a definite case of IE on the basis of clinical judgement than by using the modified standard definition. Agreement between reviewers was 92 to 95% when they were distinguishing only probable non-cases from others. Agreement between reviewers on specific categories was lower (40 to 58%). The number of positive blood cultures was a strong predictor of a patient's being classified as a case, as was the type of infecting organism. It is concluded that experts are willing to make a definitive diagnosis of IE on the basis of blood culture information alone. Further supporting evidence, such as the presence of vegetation on an echocardiogram, is needed when blood culture results are ambiguous.

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