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1.  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.
Background
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.
Methods/Design
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.
Discussion
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
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-81
PMCID: PMC3545850  PMID: 22877212
MeSH; Chest pain; Myocardial ischemia; Medical history taking; Sensitivity and specificity; Primary health care
2.  Development and validation of a clinical prediction rule for chest wall syndrome in primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:74.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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%.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-74
PMCID: PMC3444903  PMID: 22866824
Chest pain; Primary care; Thoracic wall; Musculoskeletal system; Decision support techniques; Diagnosis
3.  Oral vitamin B12 for patients suspected of subtle cobalamin deficiency: a multicentre pragmatic randomised controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:2.
Background
Evidence regarding the effectiveness of oral vitamin B12 in patients with serum vitamin B12 levels between 125-200 pM/l is lacking. We compared the effectiveness of one-month oral vitamin B12 supplementation in patients with a subtle vitamin B12 deficiency to that of a placebo.
Methods
This multicentre (13 general practices, two nursing homes, and one primary care center in western Switzerland), parallel, randomised, controlled, closed-label, observer-blind trial included 50 patients with serum vitamin B12 levels between 125-200 pM/l who were randomized to receive either oral vitamin B12 (1000 μg daily, N = 26) or placebo (N = 24) for four weeks. The institution's pharmacist used simple randomisation to generate a table and allocate treatments. The primary outcome was the change in serum methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels after one month of treatment. Secondary outcomes were changes in total homocysteine and serum vitamin B12 levels. Blood samples were centralised for analysis and adherence to treatment was verified by an electronic device (MEMS; Aardex Europe, Switzerland). Trial registration: ISRCTN 22063938.
Results
Baseline characteristics and adherence to treatment were similar in both groups. After one month, one patient in the placebo group was lost to follow-up. Data were evaluated by intention-to-treat analysis. One month of vitamin B12 treatment (N = 26) lowered serum MMA levels by 0.13 μmol/l (95%CI 0.06-0.19) more than the change observed in the placebo group (N = 23). The number of patients needed to treat to detect a metabolic response in MMA after one month was 2.6 (95% CI 1.7-6.4). A significant change was observed for the B12 serum level, but not for the homocysteine level, hematocrit, or mean corpuscular volume. After three months without active treatment (at four months), significant differences in MMA levels were no longer detected.
Conclusions
Oral vitamin B12 treatment normalised the metabolic markers of vitamin B12 deficiency. However, a one-month daily treatment with1000 μg oral vitamin B12 was not sufficient to normalise the deficiency markers for four months, and treatment had no effect on haematological signs of B12 deficiency.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-2
PMCID: PMC3033340  PMID: 21232119
4.  Patients presenting with somatic complaints in general practice: depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders are frequent and associated with psychosocial stressors 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:67.
Background
Mental disorders in primary care patients are frequently associated with physical complaints that can mask the disorder. There is insufficient knowledge concerning the role of anxiety, depression, and somatoform disorders in patients presenting with physical symptoms. Our primary objective was to determine the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and somatoform disorders among primary care patients with a physical complaint. We also investigated the relationship between cumulated psychosocial stressors and mental disorders.
Methods
We conducted a multicentre cross-sectional study in twenty-one private practices and in one academic primary care centre in Western Switzerland. Randomly selected patients presenting with a spontaneous physical complaint were asked to complete the self-administered Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) between November 2004 and July 2005. The validated French version of the PHQ allowed the diagnosis of mental disorders (DSM-IV criteria) and the analyses of exposure to psychosocial stressors.
Results
There were 917 patients exhibiting at least one physical symptom included. The rate of depression, anxiety, and somatoform disorders was 20.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 17.4% to 22.7%), 15.5% (95% CI = 13.2% to 18.0%), and 15.1% (95% CI = 12.8% to 17.5%), respectively. Psychosocial stressors were significantly associated with mental disorders. Patients with an accumulation of psychosocial stressors were more likely to present anxiety, depression, or somatoform disorders, with an increase of 2.2 fold (95% CI = 2.0 to 2.5) for each additional stressor.
Conclusions
The investigation of mental disorders and psychosocial stressors among patients with physical complaints is relevant in primary care. Psychosocial stressors should be explored as potential epidemiological causes of mental disorders.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-67
PMCID: PMC2945969  PMID: 20843358
5.  Predictive ability of an early diagnostic guess in patients presenting with chest pain; a longitudinal descriptive study 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:14.
Background
The intuitive early diagnostic guess could play an important role in reaching a final diagnosis. However, no study to date has attempted to quantify the importance of general practitioners' (GPs) ability to correctly appraise the origin of chest pain within the first minutes of an encounter.
Methods
The validation study was nested in a multicentre cohort study with a one year follow-up and included 626 successive patients who presented with chest pain and were attended by 58 GPs in Western Switzerland. The early diagnostic guess was assessed prior to a patient's history being taken by a GP and was then compared to a diagnosis of chest pain observed over the next year.
Results
Using summary measures clustered at the GP's level, the early diagnostic guess was confirmed by further investigation in 51.0% (CI 95%; 49.4% to 52.5%) of patients presenting with chest pain. The early diagnostic guess was more accurate in patients with a life threatening illness (65.4%; CI 95% 64.5% to 66.3%) and in patients who did not feel anxious (62.9%; CI 95% 62.5% to 63.3%). The predictive abilities of an early diagnostic guess were consistent among GPs.
Conclusions
The GPs early diagnostic guess was correct in one out of two patients presenting with chest pain. The probability of a correct guess was higher in patients with a life-threatening illness and in patients not feeling anxious about their pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-14
PMCID: PMC2836993  PMID: 20170544
6.  Chest wall syndrome among primary care patients: a cohort study 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:51.
Background
The epidemiology of chest pain differs strongly between outpatient and emergency settings. In general practice, the most frequent cause is the chest wall pain. However, there is a lack of information about the characteristics of this syndrome. The aims of the study are to describe the clinical aspects of chest wall syndrome (CWS).
Methods
Prospective, observational, cohort study of patients attending 58 private practices over a five-week period from March to May 2001 with undifferentiated chest pain. During a one-year follow-up, questionnaires including detailed history and physical exam, were filled out at initial consultation, 3 and 12 months. The outcomes were: clinical characteristics associated with the CWS diagnosis and clinical evolution of the syndrome.
Results
Among 24 620 consultations, we observed 672 cases of chest pain and 300 (44.6%) patients had a diagnosis of chest wall syndrome. It affected all ages with a sex ratio of 1:1. History and sensibility to palpation were the keys for diagnosis. Pain was generally moderate, well localised, continuous or intermittent over a number of hours to days or weeks, and amplified by position or movement. The pain however, may be acute. Eighty-eight patients were affected at several painful sites, and 210 patients at a single site, most frequently in the midline or a left-sided site. Pain was a cause of anxiety and cardiac concern, especially when acute. CWS coexisted with coronary disease in 19 and neoplasm in 6. Outcome at one year was favourable even though CWS recurred in half of patients.
Conclusion
CWS is common and benign, but leads to anxiety and recurred frequently. Because the majority of chest wall pain is left-sided, the possibility of coexistence with coronary disease needs careful consideration.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-51
PMCID: PMC2072948  PMID: 17850647

Results 1-6 (6)