Monday, March 25, 2013

New inpatient medicine resource in AFP By Topic

- Kenny Lin, MD

Although some family physicians choose to transfer the primary care of hospitalized patients to other specialists, nearly two-thirds of physicians surveyed by the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2011 reported having hospital admission privileges, with similar proportions among recent residency graduates and physicians with 15 or more years of practice experience. In recognition of the essential role of family medicine in the inpatient setting, our newest AFP By Topic collection features links to key clinical content on 23 common conditions in hospitalized patients.

For example, a clinician managing a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis can consult a review article published in AFP earlier this month, while another recent article provides current information on the evaluation and treatment of patients with acute kidney injury. The Inpatient Medicine collection will be regularly updated with new content as it is published in all areas of the journal.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Less is more in preoperative testing

- Kenny Lin, MD

Family physicians are often asked for preoperative consultations prior to elective surgical procedures. Traditionally, the process of "clearing" patients for surgery has included performing an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, and numerous laboratory tests. However, as Dr. Molly Feely and colleagues point out in the cover article of AFP's March 15th issue, there is little evidence that routine preoperative testing is beneficial: "these tests often do not change perioperative management, may lead to follow-up testing with results that are often normal, and can unnecessarily delay surgery, all of which increase the cost of care." Instead, current guidelines recommend selective testing based on risk factors identified during the history or physical examination.

The following Choosing Wisely campaign recommendations from several medical specialty groups identify unwarranted preoperative tests to reduce waste and prevent harm to patients:

1. Avoid routine preoperative testing for low-risk surgeries without a clinical indication.
2. Avoid admission or preoperative chest x-rays for ambulatory patients with unremarkable history and physical exam.
3. Patients who have no cardiac history and good functional status do not require preoperative stress testing prior to noncardiac thoracic surgery.
4. Avoid cardiovascular stress testing for patients undergoing low-risk surgery.
5. Avoid echocardiograms for preoperative/perioperative assessment of patients with no history or symptoms of heart disease.
6. Don’t order coronary artery calcium scoring for preoperative evaluation for any surgery, irrespective of patient risk.
7. Don’t initiate routine evaluation of carotid artery disease prior to cardiac surgery in the absence of symptoms or other high-risk criteria.
8. Prior to cardiac surgery there is no need for pulmonary function testing in the absence of respiratory symptoms.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Extra diagnostic tests don't reassure: another reason to Choose Wisely

- Kenny Lin, MD

Steering patients away from unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and treatments is an essential component of high-quality family medicine. The March 1st issue of AFP includes two articles that reflect this philosophy as embodied in the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation's Choosing Wisely campaign. Four of the American Geriatrics Society's "Five Things Patients and Physicians Should Question" refer to medications that can be harmful to older patients in certain settings: antipsychotics, hypoglycemics, benzodiazepines, and antibiotics. In this issue, Dr. Richard Pretorius and colleagues echo this advice and provide additional guidance and systematic approaches to reducing the risk of adverse drug events in older adults.

Sudden hearing loss is a distressing symptom that may prompt a physician to order a CT scan to look for a brain tumor or other cranial mass lesion. However, the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation advises against ordering this diagnostic test in patients without focal neurologic findings, since the CT scan provides no useful information and exposes the patient to radiation and an expensive medical bill. More information on the evaluation and management of sudden hearing loss is available in AFP's Practice Guidelines summary of the AAO-HNSF's recent clinical guideline.

One reason that clinicians often give for ordering diagnostic tests in patients with a low pretest probability of serious disease is to "reassure the patient." This rationale is used to justify performing endoscopy in patients with dyspepsia but no alarm symptoms; x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging in patients with uncomplicated low back pain; or electrocardiography in patients with chest pain and a low likelihood of cardiac disease. It turns out, though, that negative tests aren't reassuring at all. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 14 randomized trials in JAMA Internal Medicine found that diagnostic tests did not reduce patients' illness worry, nonspecific anxiety, or symptom persistence. The only effect of the tests was a small reduction in subsequent primary care visits. Given the adverse effects of diagnostic testing in general, including false positives and overdiagnosis, this "benefit" does not warrant making unwise choices about non-indicated medical tests.