Health News Review

Overall, a fairly thorough report that addressed almost all of our criteria satisfactorily.

Our Review Summary

We appreciate how the story placed appropriate caveats up high in the first and second sentences of the story, and followed that with cautious language from both the author (“We just wanted to see if this is feasible…”) and an independent expert.


Why This Matters

This was not a bad model for how to report on research looking at new devices in small studies. The story provided cautions and some necessary context.


Criteria

Not Applicable

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

It seems that some cost estimate could have been projected by the device manufacturer which also funded the study.

But given the stage of the technology development we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt and grade this N/A.

It would have been appropriate to note that the device requires a neurosurgical procedure along with implantation, both relatively expensive propositions

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story was appropriately cautious in describing the potential benefits based on what was observed in only 15 patients.  The limitations were clearly presented.

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story was careful to explain:

“But any benefits need to be weighed against the risks. Besides false alarms and unnecessary anxiety, the implant itself can cause problems. In this study, three patients had serious complications, including one with an infection and one whose chest device moved and caused her pain. Two patients ultimately had the implants removed.”

Satisfactory

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story quoted an independent expert saying “There are plenty of questions left” and then he detailed some of them.

The story also put “small pilot study” in the first sentence and “based on only 15 patients and the device worked far better in some than others” in the second sentence.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering of epileptic seizures.

Satisfactory

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

An independent expert source contributed important cautious perspectives.  The fact that the study was funded by the device manufacturer and that several of the authoring researchers work for the company was disclosed.

Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

We were pleased that the story briefly mentioned, “Epilepsy is usually managed with medication, but for 30 percent to 40 percent of people with the condition, drugs don’t keep seizures at bay. The new study included 15 people who were having at least two to 12 “disabling” seizures a month that were resistant to drug therapy.” But, we would have liked to have seen a comment or two about Vagal Nerve Stimulation (see http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/vns ) as an additional piece of information.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story could have been more explicit about how far away from marketing approval such an approach might be.  But we’ll call it satisfactory for at least including this from the independent expert quoted:

“This study is an important first step,” said Mehta, who was not involved in the research. “The next step would be to implant these in a larger sample of patients. And you need to see which groups of patients might be good candidates for this.”

Not Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

There has been other research about implants/devices to control epileptic seizures. See our earlier comment on vagal nerve stimulation in the “Alternatives” criterion.  The story could have easily given a brief overview of some of that competing research.

Satisfactory

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

There’s no evidence that the story relied on a news release.

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory


We Welcome Comments

But please note: We will delete comments that include personal attacks, unfounded allegations, unverified facts, product pitches, profanity or any from anyone who doesn't list what appears to be an actual email address. We will also end any thread of repetitive comments. We don't give medical advice so we won't respond to questions asking for it. Please see more on our comments policy.