Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Science, Evidence and Clinical Practice

A recent article on the The Difference between Science and Technology in Birth on the AMA site demonstrates the challenges we still face in getting clicnal practice influenced by science and data. Studies and data may show the path for best clinical practice but as the authors note there are multiple instances of the clinical community - in this case the OBGYN - either knowingly or unknowingly failing to follow the best practices

For deliveries in the US evidence tells us that fetal monitoring in low risk pregnancies has a deleterious effect - yet it remains standard practice in most settings to place external scalp electrodes and intrauterine pressure catheters

Although we still see external continuous fetal monitoring employed in many low-risk pregnancies, “as a routine practice [it] does not decrease neonatal morbidity or mortality compared with intermittent auscultation…. Despite an absence of clinical trial evidence, it is standard practice in most settings to place internal scalp electrodes and intrauterine pressure catheters when there is concern for fetal well-being demonstrated on external monitoring” [3].

 

They list several other standard practices including

  • routing episitomy
  • Use of Doula's
  • Challenges with Epidurals

Reasons for these behaviors are varied but as the authors state:

Many well-intentioned obstetricians still employ technological interventions that are scientifically unsupported or that run counter to the evidence of what is safest for mother and child. They do so not because a well-informed pregnant woman has indicated that her values contradict what is scientifically supported, a situation that might justify a failure to follow the evidence. They do so out of tradition, fear, and the (false) assumption that doing something is usually better than doing nothing

Until we fix these basic issues there seems limited opportunity to implement intelligent medicine and real evidence or science based practices.