Expert Opinion vs Patient Perspective in Treatment of Rare Disorders: Tooth Removal in Lesch-Nyhan Disease as an Example
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Treatment recommendations for rare disorders often are limited by a lack of data from objective clinical trials. As a result, recommendations are often based on expert opinion. Because expert opinions sometimes conflict, many patients turn to the Internet for guidance from others who may have tried a treatment. The increasing numbers of patients and families who post opinions regarding outcomes allow for systematic data collection regarding specific treatments from the patient perspective. We used social media research methods to determine the opinions of family members or other caregivers regarding permanent removal of teeth for treatment of self-injurious biting (SIB) in patients with Lesch-Nyhan disease (LND), a particularly difficult treatment decision where expert opinion is divided. A content analysis of social media postings was used to systematically interpret caregiver posts about tooth extraction from families and other caregivers of patients with LND who posted comments regarding physical or emotional well-being after tooth extraction. A scale was used to rate all posted opinions. Scores ranged from 1 to 5, with 1 being completely negative and 5 being completely positive. 170 comments from 46 unique individuals were collected and scored by two raters. Inter-rater reliability, determined using a correlation coefficient across all postings, was 0.85, suggesting a high degree of reliability. The overall average caregiver sentiment score was 4.86, which is an overwhelmingly positive endorsement of tooth extraction as a means for controlling SIB. These methods provide a simple strategy for recommending treatment strategies based on real-world experience when objective clinical trials are unviable.
KeywordsContent analysis Lesch-Nyhan disease Rare diseases Self-injurious behavior Tooth extraction Treatment
This work was supported in part by the Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome Children’s Research Foundation and the Dystonia Coalition, which receives the majority of its support through National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants NS065701 and TR001456 from the Office of Rare Diseases Research at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.