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Eponyms and the diagnosis of aortic regurgitation: what says the evidence?

BACKGROUND: Chronic aortic regurgitation can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. For more than a century, numerous eponymous signs of aortic regurgitation have been described in textbooks and the literature.

PURPOSE: To compare current textbook content with the peer-reviewed literature on the eponymous signs of aortic regurgitation and to assess the role of these signs in clinical practice.

DATA SOURCES: 11 textbooks, MEDLINE (1966 through October 2002), and bibliographies of textbooks and relevant papers.

STUDY SELECTION: English-language reports that were related to the properties of a sign on physical examination, incorporated more than 10 adults, and did not involve prosthetic heart valves or acute aortic regurgitation.

DATA EXTRACTION: Three investigators independently analyzed relevant textbook extracts and 27 reports, using predetermined qualitative review criteria. Data relating to diagnostic accuracy and properties of the index test were also extracted.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Twelve eponymous signs were described as having varying degrees of importance by textbook authors. Only the Austin Flint murmur, the Corrigan pulse, the Duroziez sign, and the Hill sign had sufficient original literature for detailed review. Most reports were low quality, with varying sensitivities for all signs. Except for the Hill sign, specificity tended to be poor. Evidence for the Hill sign also suggested a correlation between the popliteal-brachial gradient and aortic regurgitation severity.

CONCLUSIONS: Prominent textbook support of the eponymous signs of aortic regurgitation is not matched by the literature. Clinicians and educators should update and improve the evidence for these signs to ensure their relevance in current medical practice.

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