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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 9;8(7):e68618. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068618. Print 2013.

Agreement among healthcare professionals in ten European countries in diagnosing case-vignettes of surgical-site infections.

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Infection control unit, Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital, Paris, France.



Although surgical-site infection (SSI) rates are advocated as a major evaluation criterion, the reproducibility of SSI diagnosis is unknown. We assessed agreement in diagnosing SSI among specialists involved in SSI surveillance in Europe.


Twelve case-vignettes based on suspected SSI were submitted to 100 infection-control physicians (ICPs) and 86 surgeons in 10 European countries. Each participant scored eight randomly-assigned case-vignettes on a secure online relational database. The intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) was used to assess agreement for SSI diagnosis on a 7-point Likert scale and the kappa coefficient to assess agreement for SSI depth on a three-point scale.


Intra-specialty agreement for SSI diagnosis ranged across countries and specialties from 0.00 (95%CI, 0.00-0.35) to 0.65 (0.45-0.82). Inter-specialty agreement varied from 0.04 (0.00-0.62) in to 0.55 (0.37-0.74) in Germany. For all countries pooled, intra-specialty agreement was poor for surgeons (0.24, 0.14-0.42) and good for ICPs (0.41, 0.28-0.61). Reading SSI definitions improved agreement among ICPs (0.57) but not surgeons (0.09). Intra-specialty agreement for SSI depth ranged across countries and specialties from 0.05 (0.00-0.10) to 0.50 (0.45-0.55) and was not improved by reading SSI definition.


Among ICPs and surgeons evaluating case-vignettes of suspected SSI, considerable disagreement occurred regarding the diagnosis, with variations across specialties and countries.

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