The discrepancy between daily practice and the policy of a decision- analytic model: The management of fever of unknown origin

Danielle R.M. Timmermans, Arwen J. Sprij, Chris E. De Bel

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The optimal treatment of children with fever of unknown origin is controversial, in spite of two decision analyses that advise treatment with antibiotics for all such children. The aim of this study was to analyze the differences between pediatricians' diagnostic and therapeutic decisions and the outcomes of the decision-analytic models. Thirty-six pediatricians were asked to evaluate 30 patient cases and to give their diagnostic and therapeutic judgments. In addition, the pediatricians were asked questions about the epidemiology of fever of unknown origin. Analyses showed that the differences in policy between pediatricians and the models could not be explained by the reasons mentioned in the literature, i.e., 1) differences in epidemiologic data used, 2) differences in the weighting of clinical information, and 3) differences in the evaluation of outcomes. The differences in policy might be due to a difference between the objective of the models and pediatricians' aim. In a curative setting, pediatricians are not trying to prevent meningitis (or another serious disease) by treating possible occult bacteremia, but rather aim to detect meningitis in an early stage. A decision analysis determining the most cost-effective strategy for early detection of meningitis might therefore be more easily accepted by pediatricians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
JournalMedical decision making
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1996


  • decision-analytic models
  • diagnostic and therapeutic decisions
  • fever of unknown origin

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