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Revista Brasileira de Epidemiologia

Print version ISSN 1415-790X


LAURENTI, Ruy; JORGE, Maria Helena Prado de Mello  and  GOTLIEB, Sabina Léa Davidson. Mortality information: the use of international rules for the selection of the underlying cause. Rev. bras. epidemiol. [online]. 2009, vol.12, n.2, pp.195-203. ISSN 1415-790X.

Mortality analysis is often used in public health and the cause of death is an important variable. In most countries, there is a requirement for physicians to fill out a death certificate (DC) and to send it to authorities informing its occurrence, characteristics of the deceased, and causes of death. When there are two or more diagnoses in the DC as causes of death, it raises the question of how to select the underlying cause. There are International Rules for filling out medical causes of death in the DC and rules for the selection of the underlying cause when more than one cause is declared. The WHO defined and included them in the International Classification of Diseases, aiming to have international comparability. The objective is to evaluate whether the application of International Rules allows the selection of the real underlying cause, even if causes of death were poorly declared by the physician. The cases belong to the "Study on mortality of childbearing age women" from which total of 1,315 DC were selected. For each death, an investigation was conducted through household interviews, consultation to hospital records, and autopsies. Physicians were trained to fill a new DC, after reading all the information, and to select the real underlying cause. This cause selected after the investigation was compared to the corresponding cause in the original DC, obtained by means of the International Rules. Results showed that in 1,192 (90.6%) original DC there was agreement with the real cause obtained with the investigation. The conclusion was that International Rules allow a trained coder to select the real underlying cause, even when the physician fills the DC incorrectly.

Keywords : Cause of death; Mortality; Epidemiology; Quality of information.

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