Informed Consent: The Rate-Limiting Step in Acute Stroke Trials

Stroke Division, Department of Neurology, University of South Florida, Tampa General Hospital Tampa, FL, USA.
Frontiers in Neurology 10/2011; 2:65. DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2011.00065
Source: PubMed


Successful implementation of a randomized clinical trial (RCT) for neuro-vascular emergencies such as cerebral infarction, intracerebral hemorrhage, or subarachnoid hemorrhage is extraordinarily challenging. Besides establishing an accurate, hyper-expedited diagnosis among many mimics in a person with acute neurological deficits, informed consent must be obtained from this vulnerable group of patients who may be unable to convey their own wishes, grasp the gravity of their situation, or give a complete history or examination. We review the influences, barriers, and factors investigators encounter when providing established and putative stroke therapies, and focus on informed consent, the most important research protector of human subjects, as the rate-limiting step for enrollment into acute stroke RCTs. The informed consent process has received relatively little attention in the stroke literature, but is especially important for stroke victims with acute cognitive, aural, lingual, motor, or visual impairments. Consent by a surrogate may not accurately reflect the patient's wishes. Further, confusion about trial methodology, negative opinions of placebo-controlled studies, and therapeutic misconception by patients or surrogates may impede trial enrollment and requires further study. Exception from informed consent offers an opportunity that is rarely if ever utilized for stroke RCTs. Ultimately, advancing the knowledge base and treatment paradigms for acute stroke is essential but autonomy, beneficence (non-malfeasance), and justice must also be carefully interwoven into any well-designed RCT.

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    • "In some settings, individuals report that their decision to consent to research was positively influenced by competent, personable and experienced research personnel (Felsen et al., 2010). In the ICU, research coordinators should express empathy, recognising the burden of having a family member or close friend who is critically ill, and acknowledging SDM uncertainty inherent in research decision making (Rose and Kasner, 2011; Sugarman et al., 2001). A common reason for SDM refusal of research in the ICU is stress (Grap and Munro, 2003; Mehta et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Critically ill patients lack capacity for decisions about research participation. Consent to enrol these patients in studies is typically obtained from substitute decision-makers. To present strategies that may optimise the process of obtaining informed consent from substitute decision-makers for participation of critically ill patients in trials. We use examples from a randomised trial of heparin thromboprophylaxis in the intensive care unit (PROTECT, NCT00182143). 3764 patients were randomised, with an informed consent rate of 82%; 90% of consents were obtained from substitute decision-makers. North American PROTECT research coordinators attended three meetings to discuss enrolment: (1) Trial start-up (January 2006); (2) Near trial closure (January 2010); and (3) Post-publication (April 2011). Data were derived from slide presentations, field notes from break-out groups and plenary discussions, then analysed inductively. We derived three phases for the informed consent process: (1) Preparation for the Consent Encounter; (2) The Consent Encounter; and (3) Follow-up to the Consent Encounter. Specific strategies emerged for each phase: Phase 1 (four strategies); Phase 2 (six strategies); and Phase 3 (three strategies). We identified 13 strategies that may improve the process of obtaining informed consent from substitute decision-makers and be generalisable to other settings and studies.
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Aphasia affects up to a third of the stroke population and is associated with poor social participation and quality of life. Yet people with aphasia may be excluded from some types of stroke research due to challenges in informing, consenting, and conducting follow-up in this population. AIMS AND/OR HYPOTHESIS: We described the representation of those with aphasia in acute stroke clinical research, the level of inclusion across international trial sites, and whether there have been improvements in the inclusion of this population in recent clinical trials. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of clinical trial data from the Virtual International Stroke Trials Archive (VISTA), defining aphasia using the Best Language (item 9) domain of the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. We used proportional odds modeling, adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, stroke severity, medical history, hemisphere affected by stroke, and trial eligibility criteria, to examine the associations between year, location of enrollment, inclusion, and attrition of those with aphasia. RESULTS: Data were available for 8904 patients from 10 trials; no trials listed aphasia as an exclusion criterion. At baseline, aphasia was present in 4039 (45·4%); severe/global aphasia was present in 2688 (30·2%). We observed no geographic or longitudinal disparity in the attrition of these patients at three-months. Centers in the Philippines recruited fewer people [P = 0·05, odds ratio = 0·5, 95% confidence interval (0·2, 1·0)], while centers in Central and South America included more people with severe/global aphasia [P = 0·0004, odds ratio = 2·4, 95% confidence interval (1·3, 4·3)], when compared with centers in the USA and Canada. CONCLUSIONS: Acute stroke trials have demonstrated the feasibility of including people with aphasia in stroke research; we observed geographic variations that were not entirely explained by case mix or trial eligibility criteria. Similar levels of inclusion should be sought in nonemergency stroke trials to improve the applicability of research findings to this population.
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