To define primary care physicians’ (PCPs) practices in managing patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and to compare these practices to portions of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research BPH guideline and urologists’ practices.
Nationwide random sample of PCPs and urologists, selected from the American Medical Association Registry.
Initial mailing, postcard reminder, second mailing, telephone reminder, final mailing.
Primary care physicians (n = 444, response = 51%) reported seeing a median of 35 patients with BPH over the preceding year, in contrast to 240 for urologists (n = 394, response = 68%). Regarding tests recommended by the guideline, two thirds of PCPs reported rarely or never using the American Urological Association (AUA) symptom index, nearly all reported routinely performing digital rectal examinations, and many (66%) reported routinely ordering tests to determine the serum creatinine level. Although considered “optional” by the guideline, more than 90% of PCPs reported routinely ordering a prostate-specific antigen test, while infrequently using other optional tests. Regarding “not recommended” studies, a substantial minority reported selectively or routinely ordering intravenous pyelography (34%) and renal ultrasound (33%), while two thirds reported rarely or never ordering these tests. Eighty-six percent of PCPs reported prescribing medications for BPH over the preceding year; α blockers to a median of 12 patients, and finasteride to a median of 2. Variation in urology referral thresholds was suggested in responses to two patient scenarios.
Primary care physicians are actively managing patients with BPH. Some of their diagnostic evaluations vary from the recommendations of a national guideline and urologists’ practices. Referral thresholds appear to vary considerably.