Interrater agreement of the diagnosis and classification of a first seizure in childhood. The Dutch Study of Epilepsy in Childhood

Stroink H; Van Donselaar C A; Geerts A T; Peters A C B; Brouwer O F; Van Nieuwenhuizen O; De Coo R F M; Geesink H; Arts W F M
February 2004
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry;Feb2004, Vol. 75 Issue 2, p241
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVE: To assess the interrater agreement of the diagnosis and the classification of a first paroxysmal event in childhood. METHODS: The descriptions of 100 first paroxysmal events were submitted to two panels each consisting of three experienced paediatric neurologists. Each observer independently made a diagnosis based on clinical judgment and thereafter a diagnosis based on predefined descriptive criteria. Then, the observers discussed all patients within their panel. The agreement between the six individual observers was assessed before discussion within each panel and after that, between the two panels. RESULTS: Using their clinical judgement, the individual observers reached only fair to moderate agreement on the diagnosis of a first seizure (mean (SE) kappa 0.41 (0.03)). With use of defined descriptive criteria the mean (SE) kappa was 0.45 (0.03). The kappa for agreement between both panels after intra-panel discussion increased to 0.60 (0.06). The mean (SE) kappa for the seizure classification by individual observers was 0.46 (0.02) for clinical judgment and 0.57 (0.03) with use of criteria. After discussion within each panel the kappa between the panels was 0.69 (0.06). In 24 out of 51 children considered to have had a seizure, agreement was reached between the panels on a syndrome diagnosis. However, the epileptic syndromes were in most cases only broadly defined. CONCLUSIONS: The interrater agreement on the diagnosis of a first seizure in childhood is just moderate. This phenomenon hampers the interpretation of studies on first seizures in which the diagnosis is only made by one observer. The use of a panel increased the interrater agreement considerably. This approach is recommended at least for research purposes. Classification into clinically relevant syndromes is possible only in a very small minority of children with a single seizure.


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