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Open Access Research article

Predictors of outcome after 6 and 12 months following anthroposophic therapy for adult outpatients with chronic disease: a secondary analysis from a prospective observational study

Harald J Hamre1*, Claudia M Witt2, Gunver S Kienle1, Anja Glockmann1, Stefan N Willich2 and Helmut Kiene1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Applied Epistemology and Medical Methodology, Zechenweg 6, 79111 Freiburg, Germany

2 Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, 10098 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:218  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-218

Published: 3 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Anthroposophic medicine is a physician-provided complementary therapy system involving counselling, artistic and physical therapies, and special medications. The purpose of this analysis was to identify predictors of symptom improvement in patients receiving anthroposophic treatment for chronic diseases.

Methods

913 adult outpatients from Germany participated in a prospective cohort study. Patients were starting anthroposophic treatment for mental (30.4% of patients, n = 278/913), musculoskeletal (20.2%), neurological (7.6%), genitourinary (7.4%) or respiratory disorders (7.2%) or other chronic indications. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis was performed with the improvement of Symptom Score (patients' assessment, 0: not present, 10: worst possible) after 6 and 12 months as dependent variables. 61 independent variables pertaining to socio-demographics, life style, disease status, co-morbidity, health status (SF-36), depression, and therapy factors were analysed.

Results

Compared to baseline, Symptom Score improved by average 2.53 points (95% confidence interval 2.39-2.68, p < 0.001) after six months and by 2.49 points (2.32-2.65, p < 0.001) after 12 months. The strongest predictor for improvement after six months was baseline Symptom Score, which alone accounted for 25% of the variance (total model 32%). Improvement after six months was also positively predicted by better physical function, better general health, shorter disease duration, higher education level, a diagnosis of respiratory disorders, and by a higher therapy goal documented by the physician at baseline; and negatively predicted by the number of physiotherapy sessions in the pre-study year and by a diagnosis of genitourinary disorders. Seven of these nine variables (not the two diagnoses) also predicted improvement after 12 months. When repeating the 0-6 month analysis on two random subsamples of the original sample, three variables (baseline Symptom Score, physical function, general health) remained significant predictors in both analyses, and three further variables (education level, respiratory disorders, therapy goal) were significant in one analysis.

Conclusion

In adult outpatients receiving anthroposophic treatment for chronic diseases, symptom improvement after 6 and 12 months was predicted by baseline symptoms, health status, disease duration, education, and therapy goal. Other variables were not associated with the outcome. This secondary predictor analysis of data from a pre-post study does not allow for causal conclusions; the results are hypothesis generating and need verification in subsequent studies.