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Limitations on knowledge of autoimmune encephalitis and barriers to its treatment among neurologists: a survey from western China.

BMC Neurology 2023 March 8
BACKGROUND: Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is a group of severe antibody-mediated brain diseases. The understanding of clinical management of AE has developed rapidly. However, the knowledge level of AE and barriers to effective treatment among neurologists remains unstudied.

METHODS: We conducted a questionnaire survey among neurologist in western China on knowledge of AE, treatment practices, and perspectives on barriers to treatment.

RESULTS: A total of 1113 neurologists were invited and 690 neurologists from 103 hospitals completed the questionnaire with a response rate of 61.9%. Respondents correctly answered 68.3% of medical questions about AE. Some respondents (12.4%) never assayed for diagnostic antibodies if patients had suspected AE. Half (52.3%) never prescribed immunosuppressants for AE patients, while another 7.6% did not know whether they should do so. Neurologists who never prescribed immunosuppressants were more likely to have less education, a less senior job title, and to practice in a smaller setting. Neurologists who did not know whether to prescribe immunosuppressants were associated with less AE knowledge. The most frequent barrier to treatment, according to respondents, was financial cost. Other barriers to treatment included patient refusal, insufficient AE knowledge, lack of access to AE guidelines, drugs or diagnostic test, etc. CONCLUSION: Neurologists in western China lack AE knowledge. Medical education around AE is urgent needed and should be more targeted to individuals with less educated level or working in non-academic hospitals. Policies should be developed to increase the availability of AE related antibody testing or drugs and reduce the economic burden of disease.

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