Objective: Patients with malignant glioma (MG) must make ongoing medical treatment decisions concerning a progressive disease that erodes cognition. We prospectively assessed medical decision-making capacity (MDC) in patients with MG using a standardized psychometric instrument.
Methods: Participants were 22 healthy controls and 26 patients with histologically verified MG. Group performance was compared on the Capacity to Consent to Treatment Instrument (CCTI), a psychometric measure of MDC incorporating 4 standards (choice, understanding, reasoning, and appreciation), and on neuropsychological and demographic variables. Capacity outcomes (capable, marginally capable, or incapable) on the CCTI standards were identified for the MG group. Within the MG group, scores on demographic, clinical, and neuropsychological variables were correlated with scores on each CCTI standard, and significant bivariate correlates were subsequently entered into exploratory stepwise regression analyses to identify multivariate cognitive predictors of the CCTI standards.
Results: Patients with MG performed significantly below controls on consent standards of understanding and reasoning, and showed a trend on appreciation. Relative to controls, more than 50% of the patients with MG demonstrated capacity compromise (marginally capable or incapable outcomes) in MDC. In the MG group, cognitive measures of verbal acquisition/recall and, to a lesser extent, semantic fluency predicted performance on the appreciation, reasoning, and understanding standards. Karnofsky score was also associated with CCTI performance.
Conclusions: Soon after diagnosis, patients with malignant glioma (MG) have impaired capacity to make treatment decisions relative to controls. Medical decision-making capacity (MDC) impairment in MG seems to be primarily related to the effects of short-term verbal memory deficits. Ongoing assessment of MDC in patients with MG is strongly recommended.