Inter-rater agreement of auscultation, palpable fremitus, and ventilator waveform sawtooth patterns between clinicians

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Journal Article
Respiratory Care, 2016, 61 (10), pp. 1374 - 1383
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© 2016 Daedalus Enterprises. BACKGROUND: Clinicians often use numerous bedside assessments for secretion retention in participants who are receiving invasive mechanical ventilation. This study aimed to evaluate interrater agreement between clinicians when using standard clinical assessments of secretion retention and whether differences in clinician experience influenced inter-rater agreement. METHODS: Seventy-one mechanically ventilated participants were assessed by a research clinician and by one of 13 ICU clinicians. Each clinician conducted a standardized assessment of lung auscultation, palpation for chest-wall (rhonchal) fremitus, and ventilator inspiratory/expiratory flow-time waveforms for the sawtooth pattern. RESULTS: On the presence of breath sounds, agreement ranged from absolute to moderate in the upper zones and the lower zones, respectively. Kappa values for abnormal and adventitious lung sounds achieved moderate agreement in the upper zones, less than chance agreement to substantial agreement in the middle zones, and moderate agreement to almost perfect agreement in the lower zones. Moderate to almost perfect agreement was established for palpable fremitus in the upper zones, moderate to substantial agreement in the middle zones, and less than chance to moderate agreement in the lower zones. Inter-rater agreement on the presence of expiratory sawtooth pattern identification showed moderate agreement. The level of percentage agreement between the research and ICU clinicians for each respiratory assessment studied did not relate directly to level of clinical experience. CONCLUSIONS: Inter-rater agreement for all assessments showed variability between lung regions but maintained reasonable percentage agreement in mechanically ventilated participants. The level of percentage agreement achieved between clinicians did not directly relate to clinical experience for all respiratory assessments. Therefore, these respiratory assessments should not necessarily be viewed in isolation but interpreted within the context of a full clinical assessment.
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