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1.  A decision aid to rule out pneumonia and reduce unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics in primary care patients with cough and fever 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:56.
Background
Physicians fear missing cases of pneumonia and treat many patients with signs of respiratory infection unnecessarily with antibiotics. This is an avoidable cause for the increasing worldwide problem of antibiotic resistance. We developed a user-friendly decision aid to rule out pneumonia and thus reduce the rate of needless prescriptions of antibiotics.
Methods
This was a prospective cohort study in which we enrolled patients older than 18 years with a new or worsened cough and fever without serious co-morbidities. Physicians recorded results of a standardized medical history and physical examination. C-reactive protein was measured and chest radiographs were obtained. We used Classification and Regression Trees to derive the decision tool.
Results
A total of 621 consenting eligible patients were studied, 598 were attending a primary care facility, were 48 years on average and 50% were male. Radiographic signs for pneumonia were present in 127 (20.5%) of patients. Antibiotics were prescribed to 234 (48.3%) of patients without pneumonia. In patients with C-reactive protein values below 10 μg/ml or patients presenting with C-reactive protein between 11 and 50 μg/ml, but without dyspnoea and daily fever, pneumonia can be ruled out. By applying this rule in clinical practice antibiotic prescription could be reduced by 9.1% (95% confidence interval (CI): 6.4 to 11.8).
Conclusions
Following validation and confirmation in new patient samples, this tool could help rule out pneumonia and be used to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in patients presenting with cough and fever in primary care. The algorithm might be especially useful in those instances where taking a medical history and physical examination alone are inconclusive for ruling out pneumonia
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-56
PMCID: PMC3118372  PMID: 21569472
2.  Inhaled drugs to reduce exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a network meta-analysis 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:2.
Background
Most patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) receive inhaled long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. Conventional meta-analyses established that these drugs reduce COPD exacerbations when separately compared with placebo. However, there are relatively few head-to-head comparisons and conventional meta-analyses focus on single comparisons rather than on a simultaneous analysis of competing drug regimens that would allow rank ordering of their effectiveness. Therefore we assessed, using a network meta-analytic technique, the relative effectiveness of the common inhaled drug regimes used to reduce exacerbations in patients with COPD.
Methods
We conducted a systematic review and searched existing systematic reviews and electronic databases for randomized trials of ≥ 4 weeks' duration that assessed the effectiveness of inhaled drug regimes on exacerbations in patients with stable COPD. We extracted participants and intervention characteristics from included trials and assessed their methodological quality. For each treatment group we registered the proportion of patients with ≥ 1 exacerbation during follow-up. We used treatment-arm based logistic regression analysis to estimate the absolute and relative effects of inhaled drug treatments while preserving randomization within trials.
Results
We identified 35 trials enrolling 26,786 patients with COPD of whom 27% had ≥ 1 exacerbation. All regimes reduced exacerbations statistically significantly compared with placebo (odds ratios ranging from 0.71 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64 to 0.80) for long-acting anticholinergics to 0.78 (95% CI 0.70 to 0.86) for inhaled corticosteroids). Compared with long-acting bronchodilators alone, combined treatment was not more effective (comparison with long-acting beta-agonists: odds ratio 0.93 [95% CI 0.84 to 1.04] and comparison with long-acting anticholinergics: odds ratio 1.02 [95% CI 0.90 to 1.16], respectively). If FEV1 was ≤ 40% predicted, long-acting anticholinergics, inhaled corticosteroids, and combination treatment reduced exacerbations significantly compared with long-acting beta-agonists alone, but not if FEV1 was > 40% predicted. This effect modification was significant for inhaled corticosteroids (P = 0.02 for interaction) and combination treatment (P = 0.01) but not for long-acting anticholinergics (P = 0.46). A limitation of this analysis is its exclusive focus on exacerbations and lack of FEV1 data for individual patients.
Conclusion
We found no evidence that one single inhaled drug regimen is more effective than another in reducing exacerbations. Inhaled corticosteroids when added to long-acting beta-agonists reduce exacerbations only in patients with COPD with FEV1 ≤ 40%.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-2
PMCID: PMC2636836  PMID: 19144173
3.  Do citizens have minimum medical knowledge? A survey 
BMC Medicine  2007;5:14.
Background
Experts defined a "minimum medical knowledge" (MMK) that people need for understanding typical signs and/or risk factors of four relevant clinical conditions: myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and HIV/AIDS. We tested to what degree Swiss adult citizens satisfy this criterion for MMK and whether people with medical experience have acquired better knowledge than those without.
Methods
Questionnaire interview in a Swiss urban area with 185 Swiss citizens (median age 29 years, interquartile range 23 to 49, 52% male). We obtained context information on age, gender, highest educational level, (para)medical background and specific health experience with one of the conditions in the social surrounding. We calculated the proportion of MMK and examined whether citizens with medical background (personal or professional) would perform better compared to other groups.
Results
No single citizen reached the full MMK (100%). The mean MMK was as low as 32% and the range was 0 -72%. Surprisingly, multivariable analysis showed that participants with a university degree (n = 84; β (95% CI) +3.7% MMK (0.4–7.1) p = 0.03), (para)medical background (n = 34; +6.2% MMK (2.0–10.4), p = 0.004) and personal illness experience (n = 96; +4.9% MMK (1.5–8.2), p = 0.004) had only a moderately higher MMK than those without, while age and sex had no effect on the level of MMK. Interaction between university degree and clinical experience (personal or professional) showed no effect suggesting that higher education lacks synergistic effect.
Conclusion
This sample of Swiss citizens did not know more than a third of the MMK. We found little difference within groups with medical experience (personal or professional), suggesting that there is a consistent and dramatic lack of knowledge in the general public about the typical signs and risk factors of relevant clinical conditions.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-5-14
PMCID: PMC1894984  PMID: 17540024

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