Assessment of the Information Sources and Interest in Research Collaboration Among Individuals with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Ann Vasc Surg. 2020 Jan:62:326-334. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2019.06.010. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Background: Patient-centered research requires active engagement of patients. The vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (vEDS) research collaborative was established to ascertain patient-centered vEDS research priorities and to engage affected individuals as research partners. Evaluation of access to information and interest in research among individuals with vEDS was the first step undertaken as part of this work.

Methods: A 28-question survey was created to evaluate 4 domains of interest: diagnostic and clinical care history, vEDS experience, information resources, and willingness to collaborate with researchers. The survey was created in REDCap™ and disseminated between January and April 2018 via the vEDS social media pages, blogs, and advocacy Web sites. Results were collated and described. A single open-ended question yielded additional narrative data, which were analyzed qualitatively.

Results: Of the 300 responses, 228 (76%) were completed on behalf of oneself. The vEDS diagnosis was confirmed by genetic testing for 85% of respondents. When asked "Did a physician explain vEDS to you and how to manage it?" 25% answered no. Most had a primary care provider (65%), cardiologist (56%), and vascular surgeon (52%). Only 32% had a local vascular surgeon. The most commonly reported frustration was no cure/treatment available and the emergency rooms do not know what VEDS is (64.5% and 61.8%, respectively). The Internet was the most useful information source (62.3%) followed by a geneticist (18.4%). Most (87.7%) are willing to share their medical records for research studies (87.7%) and wished to be contacted about future studies (83.8%); however, only 65.4% would be willing to upload medical records via a secure confidential Web application. The most common reason for interest in research partnership was to advance research for a treatment/cure (83.8%) and helping others learn from their experiences (82.9%). The qualitative analysis provided additional insights into the patient experience living with vEDS.

Conclusions: Among individuals with vEDS, there is substantial frustration with the lack of treatment, lack of knowledge among health care providers, and a high degree of interest in research involvement. The survey highlights an opportunity to discuss the optimal modality for research participation and methodologies for building trust in the research teams. The methodology lessons learned can also be applied to other rare vascular diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information*
  • Altruism
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome* / genetics
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome* / psychology
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome* / therapy
  • Health Communication
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires