Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

General Health Checks for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality



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Am Fam Physician. 2013 Oct 1;88(7):432-433.

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for continuing medical education (CME). See the CME Quiz.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

Do general health checks in adults reduce morbidity and mortality?

Evidence-Based Answer

Although general health checks increase the number of new diagnoses, they do not decrease total, cardiovascular-related, or cancer-related morbidity or mortality. The studies in this Cochrane review have limited applicability to the current recommended practice of providing selective, evidence-based preventive services in primary care settings. (Strength of Recommendation: B, based on inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence.)

Practice Pointers

The general health check (also known as the complete physical examination or periodic health evaluation) has been a standard part of medical practice for years. Despite a lack of consensus on the value of the complete physical examination, physicians and patients continue to support it. In fact, 66% of the public think that having an annual complete physical examination is necessary.1 Physicians cite perceived benefits to the physician-patient relationship, patient expectations


The practice recommendations in this activity are available at http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD009009.

SOURCE:

Krogsbøll LT, Jørgensen KJ, Grønhøj Larsen C. General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(10):CD009009.

REFERENCES

1. Oboler SK, et al. Public expectations and attitudes for annual physical examinations and testing. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(9):652–659.

2. Prochazka AV, et al. Support of evidence-based guidelines for the annual physical examination: a survey of primary care providers. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(12):1347–1352.

3. Sox HC. The health checkup: was it ever effective? Could it be effective? JAMA. 2013;309(23):2496–2497.

4. Boulware LE, et al. Systematic review: the value of the periodic health evaluation. Ann Intern Med. 2007;146(4):289–300.

5. Bloomfield HE, et al. Evidence brief: role of the annual comprehensive physical examination in the asymptomatic adult. Project #09-009. VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Briefs [Internet]. Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs; 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK82767/pdf/vaphysical.pdf. Accessed December 2012.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

The series coordinator for AFP is Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency, Lancaster, Pa.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at http://www.aafp.org/afp/cochrane.


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