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1.  Chest pain in primary care: is the localization of pain diagnostically helpful in the critical evaluation of patients? - A cross sectional study 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:154.
Chest pain is a common complaint and reason for consultation in primary care. Traditional textbooks still assign pain localization a certain discriminative role in the differential diagnosis of chest pain. The aim of our study was to synthesize pain drawings from a large sample of chest pain patients and to examine whether pain localizations differ for different underlying etiologies.
We conducted a cross-sectional study including 1212 consecutive patients with chest pain recruited in 74 primary care offices in Germany. Primary care providers (PCPs) marked pain localization and radiation of each patient on a pictogram. After 6 months, an independent interdisciplinary reference panel reviewed clinical data of every patient, deciding on the etiology of chest pain at the time of patient recruitment. PCP drawings were entered in a specially designed computer program to produce merged pain charts for different etiologies. Dissimilarities between individual pain localizations and differences on the level of diagnostic groups were analyzed using the Hausdorff distance and the C-index.
Pain location in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) did not differ from the combined group of all other patients, including patients with chest wall syndrome (CWS), gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or psychogenic chest pain. There was also no difference in chest pain location between male and female CHD patients.
Pain localization is not helpful in discriminating CHD from other common chest pain etiologies.
PMCID: PMC3853238  PMID: 24138299
Chest pain; Pain localization; Coronary heart disease
2.  In-vivo-validation of a cardiovascular risk prediction tool: the arriba-pro study 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:13.
Calculation of individual risk is the cornerstone of effective cardiovascular prevention. arriba is a software to estimate the individual risk to suffer a cardiovascular event in 10 years. Prognosis and the absolute effects of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions help the patient make a well-informed decision. The risk calculation algorithm currently used in arriba is based on the Framingham risk algorithm calibrated to the German setting. The objective of this study is to evaluate and adapt the algorithm for the target population in primary care in Germany.
arriba-pro will be conducted within the primary care scheme provided by a large health care insurer in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Patients who are counseled with arriba by their general practitioners (GPs) will be included in the arriba-pro cohort. Exposure data from the consultation with arriba such as demographic data and risk factors will be recorded automatically by the practice software and transferred to the study centre. Information on relevant prescription drugs (effect modifiers) and cardiovascular events (outcomes) will be derived from administrative sources.
The study is unique in simulating a therapy naïve cohort, matching exactly research and application setting, using a robust administrative data base, and, finally, including patients with known cardiovascular disease who have been excluded from previous studies.
Trial registration
The study is registered with Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien (DRKS00004633).
PMCID: PMC3583804  PMID: 23339773
3.  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
4.  Development and validation of a clinical prediction rule for chest wall syndrome in primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:74.
Chest wall syndrome (CWS), the main cause of chest pain in primary care practice, is most often an exclusion diagnosis. We developed and evaluated a clinical prediction rule for CWS.
Data from a multicenter clinical cohort of consecutive primary care patients with chest pain were used (59 general practitioners, 672 patients). A final diagnosis was determined after 12 months of follow-up. We used the literature and bivariate analyses to identify candidate predictors, and multivariate logistic regression was used to develop a clinical prediction rule for CWS. We used data from a German cohort (n = 1212) for external validation.
From bivariate analyses, we identified six variables characterizing CWS: thoracic pain (neither retrosternal nor oppressive), stabbing, well localized pain, no history of coronary heart disease, absence of general practitioner’s concern, and pain reproducible by palpation. This last variable accounted for 2 points in the clinical prediction rule, the others for 1 point each; the total score ranged from 0 to 7 points. The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was 0.80 (95% confidence interval 0.76-0.83) in the derivation cohort (specificity: 89%; sensitivity: 45%; cut-off set at 6 points). Among all patients presenting CWS (n = 284), 71% (n = 201) had a pain reproducible by palpation and 45% (n = 127) were correctly diagnosed. For a subset (n = 43) of these correctly classified CWS patients, 65 additional investigations (30 electrocardiograms, 16 thoracic radiographies, 10 laboratory tests, eight specialist referrals, one thoracic computed tomography) had been performed to achieve diagnosis. False positives (n = 41) included three patients with stable angina (1.8% of all positives). External validation revealed the ROC curve to be 0.76 (95% confidence interval 0.73-0.79) with a sensitivity of 22% and a specificity of 93%.
This CWS score offers a useful complement to the usual CWS exclusion diagnosing process. Indeed, for the 127 patients presenting CWS and correctly classified by our clinical prediction rule, 65 additional tests and exams could have been avoided. However, the reproduction of chest pain by palpation, the most important characteristic to diagnose CWS, is not pathognomonic.
PMCID: PMC3444903  PMID: 22866824
Chest pain; Primary care; Thoracic wall; Musculoskeletal system; Decision support techniques; Diagnosis
5.  Qualitative evaluation of a local coronary heart disease treatment pathway: practical implications and theoretical framework 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:36.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a common medical problem in general practice. Due to its chronic character, shared care of the patient between general practitioner (GP) and cardiologist (C) is required. In order to improve the cooperation between both medical specialists for patients with CHD, a local treatment pathway was developed. The objective of this study was first to evaluate GPs’ opinions regarding the pathway and its practical implications, and secondly to suggest a theoretical framework of the findings by feeding the identified key factors influencing the pathway implementation into a multi-dimensional model.
The evaluation of the pathway was conducted in a qualitative design on a sample of 12 pathway developers (8 GPs and 4 cardiologists) and 4 pathway users (GPs). Face-to face interviews, which were aligned with previously conducted studies of the department and assumptions of the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), were performed following a semi-structured interview guideline. These were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed according to the standards of qualitative content analysis.
We identified 10 frequently mentioned key factors having an impact on the implementation success of the CHD treatment pathway. We thereby differentiated between pathway related (pathway content, effort, individual flexibility, ownership), behaviour related (previous behaviour, support), interaction related (patient, shared care/colleagues), and system related factors (context, health care system). The overall evaluation of the CHD pathway was positive, but did not automatically lead to a change of clinical behaviour as some GPs felt to have already acted as the pathway recommends.
By providing an account of our experience creating and implementing an intersectoral care pathway for CHD, this study contributes to our knowledge of factors that may influence physicians’ decisions regarding the use of a local treatment pathway. An improved adaptation of the pathway in daily practice might be best achieved by a combined implementation strategy addressing internal and external factors. A simple, direct adaptation regards the design of the pathway material (e.g. layout, PC version), or the embedding of the pathway in another programme, like a Disease Management Programme (DMP). In addition to these practical implications, we propose a theoretical framework to understand the key factors’ influence on the pathway implementation, with the identified factors along the microlevel (pathway related factors), the mesolevel (interaction related factors), and system- related factors along the macrolevel.
PMCID: PMC3489869  PMID: 22584032
Primary health care; Coronary artery disease; Clinical pathways; Qualitative research
6.  Do guidelines on first impression make sense? Implementation of a chest pain guideline in primary care: a systematic evaluation of acceptance and feasibility 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:128.
Most guidelines concentrate on investigations, treatment, and monitoring instead of patient history and clinical examination. We developed a guideline that dealt with the different aetiologies of chest pain by emphasizing the patient's history and physical signs. The objective of this study was to evaluate the guideline's acceptance and feasibility in the context of a practice test.
The evaluation study was nested in a diagnostic cross-sectional study with 56 General Practitioners (GPs) and 862 consecutively recruited patients with chest pain. The evaluation of the guideline was conducted in a mixed method design on a sub-sample of 17 GPs and 282 patients. Physicians' evaluation of the guideline was assessed via standardized questionnaires and case record forms. Additionally, practice nursing staff and selected patients were asked for their evaluation of specific guideline modules. Quantitative data was analyzed descriptively for frequencies, means, and standard deviations. In addition, two focus groups with a total of 10 GPs were held to gain further insights in the guideline implementation process. The data analysis and interpretation followed the standards of the qualitative content analysis.
The overall evaluation of the GPs participating in the evaluation study regarding the recommendations made in the chest pain guideline was positive. A total of 14 GPs were convinced that there was a need for this kind of guideline and perceived the guideline recommendations as useful. While the long version was partially criticized for a perceived lack of clarity, the short version of the chest pain guideline and the heart score were especially appreciated by the GPs. However, change of clinical behaviour as consequence of the guideline was inconsistent. While on a concrete patient related level, GPs indicated to have behaved as the guideline recommended, the feedback on a more general level was heterogeneous. Several suggestions to improve guideline implementation were made by participating physicians. Due to the small number of practice nursing staff evaluating the flowchart and patients remembering the patient leaflet, no valid results regarding the flowchart and patient leaflet modules could be reported.
Overall, the participating GPs perceived the guideline recommendations as useful to increase awareness and to reflect on diagnostic issues. Although behaviour change in consequence of the guideline was not reported on a general level, guidelines on history taking and the clinical examination may serve an important conservative and practical function in a technology driven environment. Further research to increase the implementation success of the guideline should be undertaken.
PMCID: PMC3267789  PMID: 22103603
7.  Gender differences in presentation and diagnosis of chest pain in primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:79.
Chest pain is a common complaint and reason for consultation in primary care. Research related to gender differences in regard to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) has been mainly conducted in hospital but not in primary care settings. We aimed to analyse gender differences in aetiology and clinical characteristics of chest pain and to provide gender related symptoms and signs associated with CHD.
We included 1212 consecutive patients with chest pain aged 35 years and older attending 74 general practitioners (GPs). GPs recorded symptoms and findings of each patient and provided follow up information. An independent interdisciplinary reference panel reviewed clinical data of every patient and decided about the aetiology of chest pain at the time of patient recruitment. Multivariable regression analysis was performed to identify clinical predictors that help to rule in or out CHD in women and men.
Women showed more psychogenic disorders (women 11,2%, men 7.3%, p = 0.02), men suffered more from CHD (women 13.0%, men 17.2%, p = 0.04), trauma (women 1.8%, men 5.1%, p < 0.001) and pneumonia/pleurisy (women 1.3%, men 3.0%, p = 0.04) Men showed significantly more often chest pain localised on the right side of the chest (women 9.1%, men 25.0%, p = 0.01). For both genders known clinical vascular disease, pain worse with exercise and age were associated positively with CHD. In women pain duration above one hour was associated positively with CHD, while shorter pain durations showed an association with CHD in men. In women negative associations were found for stinging pain and in men for pain depending on inspiration and localised muscle tension.
We found gender differences in regard to aetiology, selected clinical characteristics and association of symptoms and signs with CHD in patients presenting with chest pain in a primary care setting. Further research is necessary to elucidate whether these differences would support recommendations for different diagnostic approaches for CHD according to a patient's gender.
PMCID: PMC2801475  PMID: 20003406

Results 1-7 (7)