February 17, 2014
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Internet information on vertebroplasty deemed inadequate for patient education

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Not only is information found on the Internet regarding vertebroplasty inadequate for proper patient education, but it is also potentially misleading with websites presenting benefits of the procedure instead of risks, according to data published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.

“The information available on the Internet clearly is not an acceptable substitute for the physician-patient relationship, with a majority of sites presenting information that we believe is of unacceptable quality for patient education,” Barrett Sullivan, BSE, of Case Western Reserve University, stated.

Researchers studied the contents of 105 websites that carried information about vertebroplasty and evaluated them as excellent, high, moderate, low or unacceptable based on the source of each website’s authorship or sponsorship, its content, references cited, contact detail provided to set up an appointment and their certification status.

Overall, 7% of the websites evaluated received an excellent recommendation based on the quality and accuracy of the information provided, while 6% were of a high-quality rating and 11% were of moderate quality. Fifty-seven percent of the websites received an unacceptable rating.

Study results showed all 105 websites highlighted the benefits of vertebroplasty, but 53% outlined any risks of the procedure. While 74% referenced appropriate indications, 45% discussed any contraindications and 51% mentioned alternative treatments.

Researchers also found that 27% of the websites used peer-reviewed literature and 41% offered experimental or non-cited data based on American populations.

“Appropriate discussion of a patient’s understanding of a procedure is critical, and physicians should make efforts to inquire about internet research, taking time to counsel patients regarding the limitations of internet information,” Sullivan stated.

Reference:

Sullivan B. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2013;doi:10.1007/s11999-013-3425-5.

Disclosure: Sullivan has no relevant financial disclosures.