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May 2016

The Problem and Promise of Prognosis Research

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Medical School, Houston
  • 3Center for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Texas, Houston
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(5):411-412. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4871

A recent article referred to diagnosis as “the other half of medicine.”1 But there is more than therapy and diagnosis to medicine. Patients and their families want to know answers to questions like “Will she live?” “Will this happen again?” and “How long until we can return home?”

Prognosis—the act of foretelling the course of health or illness—has historically played a major role in medicine2 and remains relevant today. Consider, for example, the current statin guidelines, which no longer recommend therapy on the sole diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia but on a patient’s risk for future disease.3 In broad terms, the importance of prognosis in medical decision making informs recent debates about the appropriateness of interventions for precancerous breast tissues, prostate-specific antigen screening for prostate cancer, and, in our area of research, counseling and intervention surrounding extremely preterm birth.4

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