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1.  Diagnostic indicators of non-cardiovascular chest pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:239.
Non-cardiovascular chest pain (NCCP) has a high healthcare cost, but insufficient guidelines exist for its diagnostic investigation. The objective of the present work was to identify important diagnostic indicators and their accuracy for specific and non-specific conditions underlying NCCP.
A systematic review and meta-analysis were performed. In May 2012, six databases were searched. Hand and bibliography searches were also conducted. Studies evaluating a diagnostic test against a reference test in patients with NCCP were included. Exclusion criteria were having <30 patients per group, and evaluating diagnostic tests for acute cardiovascular disease. Diagnostic accuracy is given in likelihood ratios (LR): very good (LR+ >10, LR- <0.1); good (LR + 5 to 10, LR- 0.1 to 0.2); fair (LR + 2 to 5, LR- 0.2 to 0.5); or poor (LR + 1 to 2, LR- 0.5 to 1). Joined meta-analysis of the diagnostic test sensitivity and specificity was performed by applying a hierarchical Bayesian model.
Out of 6,316 records, 260 were reviewed in full text, and 28 were included: 20 investigating gastroesophageal reflux disorders (GERD), 3 musculoskeletal chest pain, and 5 psychiatric conditions. Study quality was good in 15 studies and moderate in 13. GERD diagnosis was more likely with typical GERD symptoms (LR + 2.70 and 2.75, LR- 0.42 and 0.78) than atypical GERD symptoms (LR + 0.49, LR- 2.71). GERD was also more likely with a positive response to a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) test (LR + 5.48, 7.13, and 8.56; LR- 0.24, 0.25, and 0.28); the posterior mean sensitivity and specificity of six studies were 0.89 (95% credible interval, 0.28 to 1) and 0.88 (95% credible interval, 0.26 to 1), respectively. Panic and anxiety screening scores can identify individuals requiring further testing for anxiety or panic disorders. Clinical findings in musculoskeletal pain either had a fair to moderate LR + and a poor LR- or vice versa.
In patients with NCCP, thorough clinical evaluation of the patient’s history, symptoms, and clinical findings can indicate the most appropriate diagnostic tests. Treatment response to high-dose PPI treatment provides important information regarding GERD, and should be considered early. Panic and anxiety disorders are often undiagnosed and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of chest pain.
PMCID: PMC4226211  PMID: 24207111
2.  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.
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.
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.
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).
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
PMCID: PMC3118372  PMID: 21569472
3.  Where is the supporting evidence for treating mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations with antibiotics? A systematic review 
BMC Medicine  2008;6:28.
Randomised trials comparing different drugs head-to-head are extremely valuable for clinical decision-making. However, it is scientifically and ethically sensible to demand strong evidence that a drug is effective by showing superiority over a placebo before embarking on head-to-head comparisons of potentially ineffective drugs. Our aim was to study the evolvement of evidence from placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials on the effects of antibiotics for the treatment of mild to moderate exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We conducted a historical systematic review. Through electronic databases and hand-searches, we identified placebo-controlled and head-to-head antibiotic trials for the treatment of mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. We compared the numbers of patients recruited in placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials between 1957 and 2005. Using cumulative meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials, we determined when, if ever, placebo-controlled trials had shown convincing evidence that antibiotics are effective in preventing treatment failure in patients with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations.
The first head-to-head trial was published in 1963. It was followed by another 100 trials comparing different antibiotics in a total of 34,029 patients with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. Over time, the cumulative odds ratio in placebo-controlled trials remained inconclusive throughout with odds ratios ranging from 0.39 (95% confidence intervals 0.04–4.22) to the most recent estimate (1995) of 0.81 (95% confidence intervals 0.52–1.28, P = 0.37).
Placebo-controlled trials do not support the use of antibiotics in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients with mild to moderate exacerbations. Conducting head-to-head trials is, therefore, scientifically and ethically questionable. This underscores the requirement to perform or study systematic reviews of placebo-controlled trials before conducting head-to-head trials.
PMCID: PMC2569060  PMID: 18847478
4.  Do citizens have minimum medical knowledge? A survey 
BMC Medicine  2007;5:14.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC1894984  PMID: 17540024

Results 1-4 (4)