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1.  The value of signs, symptoms and plasma heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) in evaluating patients presenting with symptoms possibly matching acute coronary syndrome: background and methods of a diagnostic study in primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):203.
Chest complaints presented to a general practitioner (GP) are frequently caused by diseases which have advantageous outcomes. However, in some cases, acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is present (1.5-22% of cases). The patient’s signs, symptoms and electrocardiography results are insufficient diagnostic tools to distinguish mild disease from ACS. Therefore, most patients presenting chest complaints are referred to secondary care facilities where ACS is then ruled out in a majority of patients (78%). Recently, a point of care test for heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) using a low cut-off value between positive and negative of 4 ng/ml has become available. We aim to study the role of this point of care device in triage of patients presenting chest complaints possibly due to ACS, in primary care. Our research protocol is presented in this article. Results are expected in 2015.
Participating GPs will register signs and symptoms in all patients presenting chest complaints possibly due to ACS. Point of care H-FABP testing will also be performed. Our study will be a derivation study to identify signs and symptoms that, combined with point of care H-FABP testing, can be part of an algorithm to either confirm or rule out ACS. The diagnostic value for ACS of this algorithm in general practice will be determined.
A safe diagnostic elimination of ACS by application of the algorithm can be of significant clinical relevance. Improved triage and thus reduction of the number of patients with chest complaints without underlying ACS, that are referred to secondary care facilities, could lead to a substantial cost reduction.
Trial registration, NCT01826994, accepted April 8th 2013.
PMCID: PMC4272772
Acute coronary syndrome (ACS); Acute myocardial infarction (AMI); Diagnostic study; Heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP); Point of care test (PoCT); Primary care
2.  Coronary heart disease in primary care: accuracy of medical history and physical findings in patients with chest pain – a study protocol for a systematic review with individual patient data 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:81.
Chest pain is a common complaint in primary care, with coronary heart disease (CHD) being the most concerning of many potential causes. Systematic reviews on the sensitivity and specificity of symptoms and signs summarize the evidence about which of them are most useful in making a diagnosis. Previous meta-analyses are dominated by studies of patients referred to specialists. Moreover, as the analysis is typically based on study-level data, the statistical analyses in these reviews are limited while meta-analyses based on individual patient data can provide additional information. Our patient-level meta-analysis has three unique aims. First, we strive to determine the diagnostic accuracy of symptoms and signs for myocardial ischemia in primary care. Second, we investigate associations between study- or patient-level characteristics and measures of diagnostic accuracy. Third, we aim to validate existing clinical prediction rules for diagnosing myocardial ischemia in primary care. This article describes the methods of our study and six prospective studies of primary care patients with chest pain. Later articles will describe the main results.
We will conduct a systematic review and IPD meta-analysis of studies evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of symptoms and signs for diagnosing coronary heart disease in primary care. We will perform bivariate analyses to determine the sensitivity, specificity and likelihood ratios of individual symptoms and signs and multivariate analyses to explore the diagnostic value of an optimal combination of all symptoms and signs based on all data of all studies. We will validate existing clinical prediction rules from each of the included studies by calculating measures of diagnostic accuracy separately by study.
Our study will face several methodological challenges. First, the number of studies will be limited. Second, the investigators of original studies defined some outcomes and predictors differently. Third, the studies did not collect the same standard clinical data set. Fourth, missing data, varying from partly missing to fully missing, will have to be dealt with.
Despite these limitations, we aim to summarize the available evidence regarding the diagnostic accuracy of symptoms and signs for diagnosing CHD in patients presenting with chest pain in primary care.
Review registration
Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (University of York): CRD42011001170
PMCID: PMC3545850  PMID: 22877212
MeSH; Chest pain; Myocardial ischemia; Medical history taking; Sensitivity and specificity; Primary health care
3.  Incident somatic comorbidity after psychosis: results from a retrospective cohort study based on Flemish general practice data 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:132.
Psychotic conditions and especially schizophrenia, have been associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Many studies are performed in specialized settings with a strong focus on schizophrenia. Somatic comorbidity after psychosis is studied, using a general practice comorbidity registration network.
Hazard ratios are presented resulting from frailty models to assess the risk of subsequent somatic disease after a diagnosis of psychosis compared to people without psychosis matched on practice, age and gender. Diseases studied are cancer, physical trauma, diabetes mellitus, gastrointestinal disorders, joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, general infections, metabolic disorders other than diabetes, hearing and vision problems, anemia, cardiovascular disease, alcohol abuse, lung disorders, mouth and teeth problems, sexually transmitted diseases.
Significant higher risks after a diagnosis of psychosis were found for the emergence of diabetes, physical trauma, gastrointestinal disorders, alcohol abuse, chronic lung disease and teeth and mouth problems. With regard to diabetes, by including the type of antipsychotic medication it is clear that the significant overall effect was largely due to the use of atypical antipsychotic medication. No significant higher risk was seen for cancer, joint conditions, irritable bowel syndrome, general infections, other metabolic conditions, hearing/vision problems, anaemia, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, in case no atypical antipsychotic medication was used.
Significantly higher morbidity rates for some somatic conditions in patients with psychosis are apparent. People with a diagnosis of psychosis benefit from regular assessments for the emergence of somatic disorders and risk factors, including diabetes in case of atypical antipsychotic medication.
PMCID: PMC3248871  PMID: 22126584
4.  Incidence and outcome of first syncope in primary care: A retrospective cohort study 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:102.
Assessment of risk for serious cardiovascular outcome after syncope is difficult.
To determine the incidence of first syncope in primary care. To investigate the relation between syncope and serious cardiovascular (CV) outcome and serious injury.
Retrospective cohort study using data from the Intego general practice-based registration network, collecting data from 55 general practices (90 GP's). All patients with a first syncope from 1994 to 2008 were included; five participants without syncope were matched for age and gender for every patient with syncope. The main outcome measures were incidence of first syncope by age and gender and one year risk of serious CV outcome or injury after syncope.
2785 patients with syncope and 13909 matched patients without syncope were included. The overall incidence of a first syncope was 1.91 per 1000 person-years (95% CI 1.83-1.98). The incidence was higher in females (2.42 (95% CI 2.32-2.55) per 1000 person-years) compared to males (1.4 (95% CI 1.32-1.49) per 1000 person-years) and follows a biphasic pattern according to age: a first peak at the age of 15-24 years is followed by a sharp rise above the age of 45. One year serious outcome after syncope was recorded in 12.3% of patients. Increasing age (HR 1.04 (1.03-1.04)), CV comorbidity (HR 3.48 (95% CI 2.48-4.90) and CV risk factors (HR 1.65 (95% CI 1.24-2.18) are associated with serious outcome. Cox regression, adjusting for age, gender, CV comorbidity and risk factors, showed that syncope was an independent risk factor for serious CV outcome or injury (HR 3.99 (95% CI 3.44-4.63)). The other independent risk factors were CV comorbidity (HR 1.81 (95% CI 1.51-2.17)) and age (HR 1.03 (95% CI 1.03-1.04)).
Incidence rate of first syncope in primary care was 1.91 per 1000 person-years. One year risk of serious outcome after syncope was 12.3%. Increasing age, CV comorbidity and risk factors are associated with serious outcome. Compared to a control group, syncope on itself is an independent risk factor for serious outcome (adjusted for age, gender, CV comorbidity and risk factors).
PMCID: PMC3191330  PMID: 21951825
Syncope; risk assessment; primary health care
5.  Diagnosing dementia: No easy job 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:60.
From both clinical experience and research we learned that in complex progressive disorders such as dementia, diagnosis includes multiple steps, each with their own clinical and research characteristics.
Diagnosing starts with a trigger phase in which the GP gradually realizes that dementia may be emerging. This is followed by a disease-oriented diagnosis and subsequently a care -oriented diagnosis. In parallel the GP should consider the consequences of this process for the caregiver and the interaction between both. As soon as a comprehensive diagnosis and care plan are available, monitoring follows.
We propose to split the diagnostic process into four diagnostic steps, followed by a monitoring phase. We recommend to include these steps when designing studies on screening, diagnosis and monitoring of patients with dementia and their families.
PMCID: PMC3141512  PMID: 21707988
6.  Computerized general practice based networks yield comparable performance with sentinel data in monitoring epidemiological time-course of influenza-like illness and acute respiratory illness 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:24.
Computerized morbidity registration networks might serve as early warning systems in a time where natural epidemics such as the H1N1 flu can easily spread from one region to another.
In this contribution we examine whether general practice based broad-spectrum computerized morbidity registration networks have the potential to act as a valid surveillance instrument of frequently occurring diseases. We compare general practice based computerized data assessing the frequency of influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory infections (ARI) with data from a well established case-specific sentinel network, the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS). The overall frequency and trends of weekly ILI and ARI data are compared using both networks.
Detection of influenza-like illness and acute respiratory illness occurs equally fast in EISS and the computerized network. The overall frequency data for ARI are the same for both networks, the overall trends are similar, but the increases and decreases in frequency do not occur in exactly the same weeks. For ILI, the overall rate was slightly higher for the computerized network population, especially before the increase of ILI, the overall trend was almost identical and the increases and decreases occur in the same weeks for both networks.
Computerized morbidity registration networks are a valid tool for monitoring frequent occurring respiratory diseases and the detection of sudden outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC2856540  PMID: 20307266
7.  GPs' reasons for referral of patients with chest pain: a qualitative study 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:55.
Prompt diagnosis of an acute coronary syndrome is very important and urgent referral to a hospital is imperative because fast treatment can be life-saving and increase the patient's life expectancy and quality of life. The aim of our study was to identify GPs' reasons for referring or not referring patients presenting with chest pain.
In a semi-structured interview, 21 GPs were asked to describe why they do or do not refer a patient presenting with chest pain. Interviews were taped, transcribed and qualitatively analysed.
Histories of 21 patients were studied. Six were not referred, seven were referred to a cardiologist and eight to the emergency department. GPs' reasons for referral were background knowledge about the patient, patient's age and cost-benefit estimation, the perception of a negative attitude from the medical rescue team, recent patient contact with a cardiologist without detection of a coronary disease and the actual presentation of signs and symptoms, gut feeling, clinical examination and ECG results.
This study suggests that GPs believe they do not exclusively use the 'classical' signs and symptoms in their decision-making process for patients presenting with chest pain. Background knowledge about the patient, GPs' personal ideas and gut feeling are also important.
PMCID: PMC2731044  PMID: 19646225
8.  Trends in total cholesterol screening and in prescribing lipid-lowering drugs in general practice in the period 1994–2003 
BMC Family Practice  2008;9:39.
General Practitioners (GPs) play a central role in controlling an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, i.e. cholesterol levels in serum. In the past few decades different studies have been published on the effect of treating hyperlipidemia with statins. Guidelines for treatment have been adopted. We investigated the consequences on the practice of GPs screening cholesterol levels and on the timing of starting statin prescription.
For this descriptive study, data from the Intego database were used, composed with data from the electronic medical records (EMR) of 47 general practices in Flanders. GPs had not received special instructions for testing specific patients. For each patient the mean cholesterol level per year was calculated. A patient belonged to the group with lipid-lowering drugs if there was at least one prescription of the drug in a year in his EMR. Mixed model linear regression models were used to quantify the effect of covariates on total cholesterol values.
In the period 1994–2003 total cholesterol was tested in 47,254 out of 139,148 different patients. Twelve percent of those tested took lipid-lowering medication. The proportion of patients with at least one cholesterol test a year, increased over a period of ten years in all age groups, but primarily for those over the age of 65.
The mean cholesterol level decreased in the treated as well as in the non-treated group. Of the patients with a cardiovascular antecedent who were on lipid-lowering drugs in 2003, 56% had a cholesterol level ≤ 199 mg/dl, 31% between 200–239 and 13% over 240 mg/dl.
The indications for testing and treating cholesterol levels broadened considerably in the period examined. In 2003 cholesterol was tested in many more patients and patients were already treated at lower cholesterol values than in previous years. Comparisons of cholesterol levels over different years should therefore be interpreted with caution as they are a reflection of changes in medical care, and not necessarily of efficacy of treatment.
PMCID: PMC2447840  PMID: 18590552
9.  Serious infections in children: an incidence study in family practice 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:23.
Information on the incidence of serious infections in children in general practice is scarce. However, estimates on the incidence of disease are important for several reasons, for example to assess the burden of disease or as a basis of diagnostic research. We therefore estimated the incidence of serious infections in general practice in Belgium.
Intego is a morbidity registration network, in which 51 general practitioners continuously register all diagnoses and additional data in their electronic medical records. Serious infections were defined as pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, pyelonephritis and osteomyelitis. Incidences are calculated for the period of 1998 to 2002, per 1000 patients in the yearly contact group, which is the group of patients that consulted their GP at least once that year, and in the practice population, which is the estimated true population of that practice.
The incidence of all infectious diseases peaks in children between 0 and 4 years, with 1731 infections per 1000 children per year in the yearly contact group. Incidence drops with increasing age: 972 infections per 1000 children per year in children between 5 and 9 years old, and 732 in children between 10 and 14 years old. The same decline in incidence is observed in the subgroup of serious infections: 21 infections per 1000 children per year in children between 0 and 4 years, 12 in children between 5 and 9 years and 5 in children between 10 and 14 years. The results for the estimated practice population are respectively 17, 9 and 4 serious infections per 1000 children per year.
In contrast to the total incidence of acute infections, serious infections are rare, around 1% per year. Children younger than 4 years old have the highest risk for serious infections, and incidences of some infections are different for boys and girls.
PMCID: PMC1435901  PMID: 16569232
10.  Implementing evidence-based medicine in general practice: a focus group based study 
BMC Family Practice  2005;6:37.
Over the past years concerns are rising about the use of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) in health care. The calls for an increase in the practice of EBM, seem to be obstructed by many barriers preventing the implementation of evidence-based thinking and acting in general practice. This study aims to explore the barriers of Flemish GPs (General Practitioners) to the implementation of EBM in routine clinical work and to identify possible strategies for integrating EBM in daily work.
We used a qualitative research strategy to gather and analyse data. We organised focus groups between September 2002 and April 2003. The focus group data were analysed using a combined strategy of 'between-case' analysis and 'grounded theory approach'. Thirty-one general practitioners participated in four focus groups. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit participants.
A basic classification model documents the influencing factors and actors on a micro-, meso- as well as macro-level. Patients, colleagues, competences, logistics and time were identified on the micro-level (the GPs' individual practice), commercial and consumer organisations on the meso-level (institutions, organisations) and health care policy, media and specific characteristics of evidence on the macro-level (policy level and international scientific community). Existing barriers and possible strategies to overcome these barriers were described.
In order to implement EBM in routine general practice, an integrated approach on different levels needs to be developed.
PMCID: PMC1253510  PMID: 16153300
11.  Signs and symptoms in children with a serious infection: a qualitative study 
BMC Family Practice  2005;6:36.
Early diagnosis of serious infections in children is difficult in general practice, as incidence is low, patients present themselves at an early stage of the disease and diagnostic tools are limited to signs and symptoms from observation, clinical history and physical examination. Little is known which signs and symptoms are important in general practice. With this qualitative study, we aimed to identify possible new important diagnostic variables.
Semi-structured interviews with parents and physicians of children with a serious infection. We investigated all signs and symptoms that were related to or preceded the diagnosis. The analysis was done according to the grounded theory approach. Participants were recruited in general practice and at the hospital.
18 children who were hospitalised because of a serious infection were included. On average, parents and paediatricians were interviewed 3 days after admittance of the child to hospital, general practitioners between 5 and 8 days after the initial contact.
The most prominent diagnostic signs in seriously ill children were changed behaviour, crying characteristics and the parents' opinion. Children either behaved drowsy or irritable and cried differently, either moaning or an inconsolable, loud crying. The parents found this illness different from previous illnesses, because of the seriousness or duration of the symptoms, or the occurrence of a critical incident. Classical signs, like high fever, petechiae or abnormalities at auscultation were helpful for the diagnosis when they were present, but not helpful when they were absent.
behavioural signs and symptoms were very prominent in children with a serious infection. They will be further assessed for diagnostic accuracy in a subsequent, quantitative diagnostic study.
PMCID: PMC1215482  PMID: 16124874

Results 1-11 (11)